Once you have the attention of your customers (aware and interested in your product) they will usually evaluate your offering against other therapeutic options before they try or buy it.
In the past you may have been able to convince individual physicians that you had a better product for their patients by using any combination of sales presentations, marketing brochures, published clinical papers, or by having them attend company sponsored speaker programs. Some physicians jumped right to using samples as their evaluation process. These were all effective tactics used to provide information for evaluation and biased or not, it was often the only information that physicians had convenient access to that helped them evaluate your product against other therapeutic alternatives.
In the evolving new healthcare market, even if you convince the physician you have a great product, what happens when they write the prescription but the patient’s drug plan does not have your product available on their formulary or it is available at a significantly higher, and perhaps an unaffordable, co-pay than other treatments?
Yes, this same situation can happen today but as the realities of healthcare reform take hold; cost management will intensify, including putting increased pressure on controlling the cost of prescription drug treatment. Managed plans will become more demanding for the information they require to substantiate your differentiating claims of better efficacy, improved safety, or cost benefit. With the number of very effective mass market blockbuster products coming off patent over the next 5 years, prescription drug plans will have even more generic drug therapeutic alternatives to evaluate against your new product for many of the chronic diseases that drive revenues for the industry today. Remember, you’ve been telling these same people how therapeutically wonderful these products are for years. Now that they are available as generic drugs doesn’t make them any less therapeutically beneficial for their patients.
So what does this mean? The evaluation step of the adoption sequence in the evolving new healthcare market will require marketers to answer two questions. Marketers will also need to align every pieced of supportive data they have to prove the answers they are giving are based on credible, preferably published, scientific data (and not just implications and marketing hype). This market will no longer buy into just because it is new, it is better message. So, what are the two critical questions that must be answered?
“Why should we use your product rather than these other therapeutic options (including generic drug options) we have available?”
“Why should we pay more than we pay for these other therapeutic options that happen to be available as generic drugs?”
The difference between the past (or even the present) and the evolving healthcare reform- driven market is that prescription drug plans will be even more demanding and rigorous in their evaluation process. With so many good generic drug options available at lower cost they will need very good rationale and data to support their decisions and to justify the added costs associated with putting an expensive new branded products onto their formularies. Patients may always have the option to pay for your product themselves but this is not where marketers are going to want to be, as you will not get the volume or revenues you need to make it worth marketing.
The good news is that if you have a truly innovative treatment that you can demonstrate has a clear clinically meaningful benefit at a reasonable price you will make the formulary decision easier and you may find the plan interested in working with you to increase the rate of adoption and encourage the use of your new product. Again, all the marketing and sales hype you want to deploy for a “new” and “different” product without a meaningful clinical or cost benefit won’t get you there. It will take solid credible clinical data to support the answer to the two questions.
It is this evaluation step that will make the evolving new healthcare market more challenging for pharmaceutical marketers going forward. As physician prescribing practices are guided and constrained by prescription drug formularies and patient co-pay affordability, traditional marketing and sales tactics will have less of an impact on the evaluation step. A good portfolio of effective treatments available as generic drugs makes this even more challenging. Good science with strong data to support new product clinical benefits or overall healthcare cost savings will be more important than ever.
Guess marketing better start working even closer with and provide some meaningful input to R & D.