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Orphan drugs require new sales and marketing approach

Face to face engagement is simply not viable in rare diseases

Online Physician CommunitiesPharma's growing interest in orphan drugs was underlined recently by news that French drug-maker Sanofi will buy a 12 per cent stake in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals for $700m and deepen its partnership to develop drugs for rare genetic diseases.

A rare disease is defined as affecting five people or fewer in 10,000. Around 7,000 rare diseases have already been identified and the total is steadily rising as new genetic discoveries explain previously unexplained disease patterns.

The small number of patients who may potentially benefit from orphan drugs means that while interest in them is strong, convincing cash constrained healthcare payers of their efficacy and value is a major hurdle for pharma marketers.

However, this is only part of the challenge. If pharma obtains funding for the product, it must then raise awareness among GPs and other generalists to ensure that patients are correctly diagnosed, as well as targeting prescribers.

With sales reps teams under intense pressure, face to face engagement is simply not viable for orphan brands, and pharma needs to find new ways to target doctors. Digital channels, which enable pharma to deliver tailored messages to specific groups of doctors, evaluate their response and optimise their ongoing activity accordingly, should be at the heart of their sales and marketing strategy.

Digital channels usually work best when they are integrated within the multi-channel mix, and used to inform and optimise ongoing activities. However, a recent industry first campaign run by Doctors.net.uk to launch a women's health product demonstrates the level of interest that can be generated when a digital channel is used in the absence of any other other sales and marketing activity. The campaign for Abbott's Low Dose HRT brand engaged more than 9,000 doctors and achieved a continuous month on month increase in sales in 2013.

For more information on Doctors.net.uk, please call Tim Ringrose on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email Tim.Ringrose@mess.doctors.org.uk. You can also follow Doctors.net.uk on Twitter: @doctors_net_uk

10th February 2014

From: Marketing

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