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Euro'vision blog

A look at the key issues for pharma across Europe

Pharmaceutical marketing in Europe – should we call a priest?

What’s the talk in Europe? Catch up with new regulation in Spain and France, and a shelved product launch in Germany

One of the great things about being involved with the EACA HCC is that I frequently get a chance to chat to many of my colleagues from agencies, networks and client companies around Europe. And it's no surprise that often the main topic of conversation is the future of the business in the established markets of Europe. Generally the conversations are such that they would be unbearable without the fortification of at least one glass of fine European wine.

On the surface the outlook looks pretty dire. A roll-call of countries shows that things are conspiring against the industry, reducing or eliminating spend in the traditional channels. For example new generics-only regulation recently approved in Spain is making pharma companies very reluctant to engage in promotional activities.

In France companies have reduced budgets in the light of recent scandals that have tainted the industry, coupled with increasing legislation to end direct relationships between doctors and the industry.

In Germany, the decision by Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly not to market their new diabetes product (one of the few new product launches planned this year) because of lack of agreement on price is another worrying sign that EMEA regulatory approval of new drugs is no guarantee that they will end up being actually marketed.

And lets not even mention the Greeks… all in all it's a worrying pre-apocolyptic picture – does it signal the end of pharmaceutical marketing as we know it in the region?

My own thoughts on this debate are that we have to recognise the change but not get too depressed quite yet. My colleagues in Spain remain cautiously optimistic that changes there are offset by a slow recovery in confidence in the economy.

In France it's time to look for new ways of involving doctors in discussions on the most appropriate medicines, and to decouple political and other forms of influence from the rational discussion of the relative benefits of different products.

Germany, the third largest pharmaceutical market in the world, cannot risk being left behind as new medicines are introduced – so we can expect to see some solution to this issue soon, either by agreement or change of political leadership. Finally in a rare ray of light, the UK's NICE has given a positive nod to MSDs drug Simponi, after being shown how a patient-access scheme could reduce costs.

So actually – against all predictions – Europe pharma marketing continues to be viable if subdued. In the words of Mr Mark Twain: “rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated”.

Article by
Max Jackson

Max Jackson is CEO, EMEA & APAC, Sudler & Hennessey and former chair EACA Healthcare Communications Council

5th October 2011

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