How Does Patient Centricity Relate to DTC Marketing?



The idea of patient centricity is not new. In the past, many companies defined patient centricity according to their ability to develop medications that could treat healthcare conditions. That is a very restrictive definition that does not fit the current environment very well. Listening to the voice of the patient is the modern definition of this idea.

Patients Were Not Part of the Discussion

Until recently, Pharma was mainly having conversations about healthcare treatment with HCPs. HCPs were at the center of the healthcare universe. They made the diagnosis. They made the decisions about the right ways to treat patients. They decided on specific medications. When it came to healthcare decisions, patients were in the passenger seat or even more often in the backseat. They had very little voice.  

This approach often left patients feeling alienated and/or poorly served by the medical community. Lacking the patient voice, problems were overlooked (CNS, OAB, ED, IBS-C, etc.). Patient preferences were not considered. Healthcare outcomes were compromised.

Listening Leads to True Patient Centricity

To change the dynamic, both doctors and Pharma companies need to listen closely to patients and empower them in their healthcare choices. The new expression of patient centricity provides huge opportunities for Pharma companies.



How Does DTC Marketing Affect Patient Centricity

Once the FDA approved the use of patient marketing/communication programs, Pharma companies began to discover how important patient communication can be. The pioneers in DTC marketing were exploring the possibilities related to patient centricity.

Nexium was a leader in the GERD category. Its DTC marketing, the "I Didn't Know" campaign, educated patients on the cause of GERD. For many who might have been using OTC approaches, information about Nexium triggered conversations with doctors. In the driver's seat, the patient could ask if Nexium would be more helpful than their current approach. Without the marketing, this conversation might not have happened or might have been delayed. Nexium sales were stellar.

The industry took notice.

What Came Next?

DTC marketing exploded. A long list of brands followed the lead of Nexium: Boniva, Restasis, Lipitor, Crestor, Plavix, Effexor, Ambien, Cialis, Cymbalta, Viagra, Symbicort, and it goes on and on. All of these brands became blockbusters. 

As the years went on, even smaller brands used patient marketing efforts and achieved positive results. The industry learned that patients respond well to positive messages and information about brands.  

So How Are Patient Communication Efforts Changing?

There is an influx of patient communication efforts that are for much smaller patient populations. And in many cases, the goal is not just to build awareness of the brand name. Many of these efforts focus on developing patient understanding of their condition and general treatment options.

Whereas Cymbalta was advertising for depression with an incidence of over 20% of the US population, now we are seeing patient communication efforts for brands with much smaller populations.

For example, Kesimpta and Ocrevus are using communication efforts for multiple sclerosis. Less than 1% of the US population has this condition.  However, the brand is working hard to connect with patients.

Kesimpta is doing a particularly good job of humanizing MS. In its TV ad, the brand comments on the unpredictability of the condition in an almost whimsical manner. While it does not diminish the condition, it also does not suggest that MS needs to consume the lives of patients. It offers solutions to problems that patients face, such as "How do I take my medication?"

Television can build awareness and general interest, but the heavy lifting usually happens in other places where patients receive more information. On its website, Kesimpta offers patient testimonials reflecting the positive vision shown in the TV ad and how the medication offers solutions to their problems.

In one testimonial, "Amanda" shares that, "I wanted to stop getting infusions since they didn't fit my lifestyle [which are issues at work]... But, taking KESIMPTA at home has resolved that, and I feel like I can now separate my RMS treatment from my work life."

Patients always respond well to communication that focuses on solutions and positive emotions such as hope and love. Kesimpta is doing a great job of this. It is truly patient centric work.

A Community United

Nearly everyone in society is impacted by chronic conditions. A recent study we conducted shows that around half of the US population suffers from at least one chronic disease. The medical community may be uniquely qualified to address some healthcare issues. However, we are clearly seeing an important (and encouraging) shift where the patient takes a more active role in healthcare decisions. By understanding patient needs we will be in a position to provide information that will empower them in these discussions.

Andrew Thomas, VP for respiratory at GSK recently commented that, “Historically across pharma, I think we tended to shy away from the reality of what [patients are experiencing]... We need to relate to the patient and identify that many of these patients are either untreated or undertreated." He goes on to say that providing information to patients is the key to improving healthcare outcomes. 

"Patient centricity" is about hearing them as though you are listening to your next door neighbor. Communication is then developed that empowers patients in their quest for postive healthcare outcomes. Brands that get this right are providing a service to the public. And, like Nexium, they will also perform strongly in the marketplace.