Marketing and sales challenges in the evolving new healthcare market

Companies continue to feel investor pressure and struggle to deliver revenue growth as they downsize and restructure.

An increasingly “managed market” is becoming less tolerant of marketing and sales tactics. Physicians and patients alike, while seek more product information, are becoming less responsive to advertising.  Legislators continue to probe and publicly imply impropriety regarding marketing tactics.  States attorneys general have formulated a process for consistently identifying, filing and winning fraud and false claims actions to recover money from settlements and fines for their ailing state budgets.  And regulators are committed to be increasingly aggressive with reining in compliance violators.

The market, legislative, and regulatory expectation is to stick to the product label claims and drop the “hype”.  Comply with these expectations and you almost certainly put your product at a competitive disadvantage against those companies, and their products, that choose not to conform.  And even if you play up the side effects and adverse reactions, it probably won’t be sufficient to satisfy regulators and certainly won’t prevent the thousands of product liability attorneys waiting to prove you didn’t do enough for their clients.

Despite what their  spreadsheet models might suggest, products in many company portfolios don’t have the differentiation or market opportunities to deliver the revenue forecasts and growth expectations being proposed.  Many products are no longer or never were the best treatment option.  Many that made blockbuster status are or will soon go off patent.  Many company forecasts ignore or mitigate the realities of therapeutic substitutions with generic drugs.

Yet the demands for growth continue to put marketing and sales people in a difficult and often unfair position of producing the revenue growth that may not be achievable with the products they have in this increasingly difficult and demanding market.  Aggressive revenue forecasts without strong product label claims that can help differentiate products gives way to aggressive sales and marketing tactics that go beyond expertise, creativity, and skill.

I don’t believe there are very  many C-level executives or senior managers who are going to be  receptive or empathetic to this reality.  I can hear it now.  “If you can’t get the numbers we need….we’ll find somebody who can.”  And,  I guess based on previous history of questionable ethics, “pushing the regulatory envelop”, and even illegal marketing and sales activities, including “off-label” promotion, that means “do whatever it takes…just try not to get caught”.   It may seem unrealistic and very idealistic to believe that this could stop, but I believe, for the industry’s  sake,  it must.

mike@pharmareform.com