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February 26, 2016 0

There are several candidates talking about the high costs of drugs. The Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, has said in his town halls that we could save $300 billion a year by negotiating pricing through competitive bidding. Bernie says drug companies make outrageous profits and through a single payer system, he would dramatically lower costs. Hillary says there will be a monthly cap on what Americans will pay for drugs, and she will institute Medicare price controls, and end tax deductions for DTC.

Bob Ehrlich
“Expect drug marketing to disappear…”
-Bob Ehrlich

Mr. Trump has greatly exaggerated the potential savings. Medicare spent about $85 billion on prescription drugs through its Part D program in 2015. Total spending for drugs in the United States was $374 billion in 2014. Assuming price negotiation through Medicare can match Canadian prices, Medicare could save about 30% or $25-26 billion. Assuming private insurers would use these new Medicare prices to help negotiate harder, maybe they can squeeze another 10% out of drug makers. That would add another $28-30 billion.

Let’s say the public and private sector savings add to $53-56 billion annually. And for sake of argument let’s assume both Bernie and Hillary plans get the same. What happens to the drug industry losing $53-56 billion in revenue? About 85-90% of the lost revenue would be profit. That means about $45 billion. Total drug industry profits are in the $100 billion range.

What would happen to an industry that loses 45% of its annual profit? Massive layoffs in all areas of operations, relocation of jobs that remain to China and India, slashing of research budgets, and a focus on less risky drugs would occur. Bernie may think drug companies make outrageous profits but he has no experience how businesses work since he never had a regular private sector job. High risk industries need large incentives to take risks. Many drug companies fail in their research efforts and lose billions doing so.

Assuming Mr. Trump or Hillary succeed in price controls, they will turn the drug industry into a quasi government contractor. New drugs will be those that government agrees to subsidize. That means many smaller disease categories will be ignored as government will focus on the diseases that impact broad populations.

Expect drug marketing to disappear under a government dominated system. Medicare under its price negotiation authority would discourage, if not outright ban drug advertising. After all they do not want Americans to use expensive drugs. All of us in DTC will need to find other work.

There may be private innovators who still develop breakthrough drugs. It will be harder under reduced pricing and I suspect fewer small drug companies will get venture capital. Government will have an increased role in basic research and drug companies will be secondary. Nationalizing R&D sounds great to socialists, but how many new drugs came out of the Soviet Union?

An electorate hostile to drug companies may actually buy into the narrative that price controls work. Our total health expenditures are about $3 trillion in the United States. It would be shame to gut the vital drug industry for a $50 billion saving. Next time we see an Ebola outbreak, a Zika like virus, a new flu, or a drug resistant bacteria, we will want a vibrant drug industry to give us cures. While politically popular to rail against drug companies, the American people need to understand the unintended consequences from a punitive approach to drug profitability.

Bob Ehrlich

February 24, 2016 0

By Givi Topchishvili of 9.8 Group

Topchishvili-Feb2016artworkLet me begin by admitting that I haven’t watched a Congressional Hearing since Michael Corleone had to stare down angry lawmakers in the Godfather Part II. Little did I know how accurately a 1974 Hollywood scene portrayed the reality I saw on 2016 CSPAN airing of the Congressional Hearing on the Prescription Drug Market. The theatrics, the drama, and emotions were so perfectly done, I had a hard time seeing the fine line between fiction and the reality. And that to me is a problem.

The policies relating to public health are highly consequential to governance and should not be taken lightly even by those of us who believe in a smaller government. Quality, access, and affordability of healthcare are vital to a society. It effects individuals and businesses. It effects government spending. It effects innovation and a major slice of the economy.

That’s why I found it perplexing that everything I saw boiled down to a show. There was a lot of self-righteous indignation, moralizing, and finger-pointing. On the other side of the isle was a perfect lineup of the worst examples of corporate greed and speculation, that happened to end up in the pharma business. It was a well-orchestrated show, evidently deeply steeped in traditions. Is that what we call leadership?

As I write this, major changes are happening in different parts of the world with regards to cost of pharmaceutical drugs. Japan, facing an aging population and a massive government debt burden, now has Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government insisting on price cuts on branded drugs and pushing for a speedier transition to generics. The government has said that in the next few years it would like to see generics make up about 80 percent of prescriptions in Japan from about 50 percent now. It also makes friendlier business environment for smaller companies like Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical and India’s Sun Pharmaceutical, among others. The Japanese government identified a tangible problem and found a tangible solution.

In the UK, under pressure from consumer advocates, the government is considering overriding a patent for one major branded medication, pay its developer a compensation – process known as compulsory licensing – and authorize a company to make cheap generic copies. The case is still pending, but in a sign that the pressure is real the maker was already forced to slash pricing on the drug, although it wouldn’t disclose by how much.

Meanwhile back home in the United States, we get great reality TV of a group of lawmakers beating down on Martin Shkreli without offering any real solutions. The anticipated FDA review time for new drugs is still at least 10 to 15 months, officially, while in reality it could take years. The border to entry is still prohibitively complex and expensive. There is no mechanism in place to open the market up to more competition, or ways to expedite approval of medicines that are proven to be effective in other parts of the world.

At the same time, legal loopholes in the tax code and complex offshore schemes allow multinational entities to facilitate tax evasion. The structure of our insurance compensation policies and conjunction with HIPPA rules make it easy for some companies to charge double or triple the price as they do in other parts of the world for the same medication. That leverage is then used to undercut competition in other parts of the world, compensating for the losses at the expense of American patients and insurance companies.

Yes, there are many problems in the pharma industry, but whatever problems might exist will be easier to resolve if the government actually focused on their responsibilities and made the regulatory environment more open to transparent business practices and scientific innovation. But that takes real leadership, which is a lot more difficult than beating down on caricatures of the worst elements in any industry.

Givi Topchishvili

February 24, 2016 0

By Linda J. DiPersio, MSM, MSHC

A recent eMarketer study projects that by the end of this year 63% of the overall digital display ad spending in the United States will be attributed to programmatic media buying – and this figure is estimated to soar towards 83% in 2017. In the pharmaceutical industry, programmatic buying uses software interfaces and algorithms to define and analyze specific traits of patients who have a strong inclination to purchase certain medications over others. This data allows digital ad spaces to be tailored to patients more accurately, which influences and supports a patient-centric media strategy in a positive way. The skillful use of programmatic buying within this platform not only depends on educating marketers to recognize the myths but also on encouraging them to follow the trends that will lead to an increased level of patient centricity and greater financial success and efficiency.

Fictional vs. Factual Information about Programmatic Media Buying

DiPersio-Feb2016-artwork2 DiPersio-Feb2016-artwork3 DiPersio-Feb2016-artwork4 DiPersio-Feb2016-artwork5


2016 Trends in Programmatic Buying

Engaging Purchase-Based Targeting (PBT). With (PBT), marketers analyze segments of small groups of individuals that bought the product previously and then conduct exact image modeling to increase profits by finding more patients who are willing to buy. Behavioral and contextual data attributes enhance this digital segmentation.

Planning with Direct Automation. Advertisers create audiences inside their Data Management Platforms (DMPs) with automated guaranteed procurement. They push them directly to a publisher’s ad server that participates in user-matching.

DiPersio-Feb2016-artwork6Managing Global Frequency. Marketers effectively map users to all of their devices, match users across a myriad of platforms and determine frequency to an individual. They control their messaging and influence their bidding strategies to usher users into frequency where conversions emerge.

Bringing Talent In-House. Hiring former agencies and vendors, certifying their own technologies and retaining their own data are only a few of the ways that big marketers are consolidating talent internally. They desire an intense and direct connection to experts who specialize in programmatic buying and analysts who are focused on data science.

Closing the Loop with Data. The marketing attribution adage of “50% of my marketing works, but I just don’t know which 50%” is now showing 100% closure with organized substantiation. One example is specific beacon technology that allows marketers to actualize results with a three step process: 1) patients are alerted through social media on their mobile devices about a discount offer through social media; 2) their arrival at the pharmacy is verified and 3) data is integrated with the point-of-sale (POS) system that immediately indicates if the product was purchased.

Permitting Technology to Make Determinations. From the outset, data machine algorithms determine the exact make up and segmentation of the patient giving marketers an advanced and full understanding of the shared features of data attributes. Smoother media planning arises from automatic segment generation.

In conclusion, by understanding fact versus fiction and paying close attention to this year’s trends in programmatic buying, marketers can achieve more effective campaigns on a smaller budget and in a timely fashion. Algorithmic data analysis combined with a transparent, unbiased framework strengthens this type of buying and creates a win-win situation for the patient-centric media strategy. With programmatic buying projections, the pharmaceutical industry currently has the fortuitous chance to track the patient journey with available data delivering deeper, clearer and more concise content in the right place to the right people at the right time.



Kleveno, K. “Debunking 5 Myths of Programmatic Buying.” 360i Digital Agency. (2013)

Loechner, J. “Marketers Face More Pressures Than Just Marketing.” MediaPost (2014)

O’Hara, C. “Trends in Programmatic Buying.” Media Measurement. (2015)

“Mobile Marketers Think Programmatic Advertising Is the Future So Why Aren’t They Using It?” CallFire (2015)

“A Look Inside Programmatic Pricing.” AdWeek (2015).


February 24, 2016 0

DTC Perspectives, the leading forum for direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising thought leaders names its 15th Annual list of the “Top 25 DTC Marketers of the Year.”

This year’s class will be honored during a joint ceremony dinner recognizing the 2016 Top 25 DTC Marketers and Hall of Fame class on the evening of April 19 sponsored byContextMedia:Health at the 2016 DTC National taking place in Boston. It includes representatives from more than 15 different manufacturing companies, with each marketer championing both the interests of the patient and brand.

“I am excited to congratulate the 2016 Top 25 DTC Marketers on behalf of the ContextMedia:Health team! It is these individuals who continue to pursue our always changing industry and wholly embrace the best technology and innovation available. We look forward to celebrating their achievements and impact on patient marketing at the upcoming DTC National Conference,” says Ashik Desai, EVP of Business Growth and Analytics, ContextMedia:Health.

The Top 25 DTC Marketers of the Year for 2016 are…

James Berger, Senior Product Manager, Entyvio, Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Brittany Blair, Product Manager, Primary Care Consumer Marketing, BREO, GSK

Shawn Booth, Director, US Xeljanz Marketing, Pfizer

Jeffrey Cohen, Senior Director / Team Lead, US Vaccines, Pfizer

Elisabeth Dalton, Associate Director, Oncology Marketing, XTANDI, Astellas

Alex Dyer, Senior Marketing Director, Crestor, AstraZeneca

Brian Gartside, Sr Manager Patient Marketing, Novo Nordisk

Congratulations, Brian, from:






Lorine Harr, Head US Reporting & Analytics, US General Medicines & Established Products, Sanofi US

Ginna Holsinger, Associate Director, Marketing Communications, Belsomra, Merck & Co.

Angela Horstmann, Marketing Director, Tanzeum, GSK

Michael Jafar, Senior Director Strategic Marketing & Communications, Allergan

Terri-Lynne Jones, Senior Product Manager, Psychiatry Marketing, Lundbeck

Nicole Kloevekorn, Director, Chantix US Marketing, Pfizer

Debra Marchese, Executive Director, Marketing, Linzess, Actavis

Allyson McMillan-Youngblood, Director of Immuno-Oncology Franchise, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Ryan Mihalik, Associate Director, Urology Consumer Marketing, Astellas

Megan Morrison, Senior Product Manager, Amitiza, Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Dan Pinto, Associate Brand Director, Novo Nordisk, Inc.

Andrea Porzio, Director, HCV Marketing, Gilead Sciences

Vasanthi Ratnathicam, Group Product Manager, Tamiflu, Genentech

Carey Reynolds, Product Director, US Eye Care – RESTASIS Consumer Marketing, Allergan

Holly Rosenthal, Senior Director Marketing, Jublia, Valeant

Tatyana Tsinberg, Senior Director & Team Leader, VIAGRA, Pfizer

Aylin Utke, Product Director, Diabetes Alliance, Eli Lilly

Libby Wlochowicz, Director, Consumer & Multi-Channel Marketing, Amgen

“These elite pharmaceutical marketing professionals are this year’s top contributors to the advancement of patient outcomes via direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical education and marketing,” added DTC Perspectives Chairman and CEO Robert Ehrlich. “We would like to recognize the faces behind prominent DTC campaigns, because their hard work and dedication to fostering the industry is often not recognized. The awardees were selected from many worthy candidates.”


Select honorees will also participate in a panel discussion on current DTC marketing issues at the DTC National Conference, held April 19-21 at Sheraton Boston.

Click here to register for the DTC National Conference or contact the DTC Perspectives office at 770-302-6273.


Celebrate with the Industry’s Best

Congratulate the Top 25 Marketers and Hall of Fame inductees in-person and in our publications!  DTC Perspectives offers reserved tables with seating for 10 at the Top 25/Hall of Fame and Advertising Awards ceremonies as well as congrats ads opportunities in our DTC Perspectives Magazine/DTC National Conference Guide, on our website, and in Email announcements.  Click here to view awards packages and congratulate a Top Marketer/DTC Hall of Fame inductee today.

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February 22, 2016 0

MP Global products, an environmentally-friendly flooring and packaging company, is proud to advertise that they “were green before it was even fashionable”. In early February, the Thermal Packaging Products division introduced a line of insulated cotton packaging used for temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals and consumer products. In addition to being completely biodegradable, the recycled cotton fibers also contain an antimicrobial additive for cross-contamination prevention, and are super-absorbent to contain possible spills. These liners have far more features than traditional foam packaging, all while being eco-conscious. With the “go green” trend stronger than ever, MP Global may have just struck gold.

To learn more, click here.


Lily Stauffer

February 22, 2016 0
John Costik, right, and his son Evan reflected on an iPad’s screen. An app on the device displays Evan’s blood sugar levels in real time. Source: NY Times
John Costik, right, and his son Evan reflected on an iPad’s screen. An app on the device displays Evan’s blood sugar levels in real time. Source: NY Times

Managing type I diabetes requires tedious daily logging, a system that is far from perfect and in need of a technological face-lift. There are two primary sources for logging the data; the traditional paper forms method, and the newer continuous glucose monitors. Due to serious drawbacks with both methods, John Costik, an engineer and father of 4-year old type I diabetes patient, decided to take the system into his own hands. Costik was quoted saying, “I wanted our lives to be simple, and I wanted Evan to live a long time, and diabetes to be a nuisance, not a huge struggle”. The result? He designed a simple code that transmits the monitoring data onto a spreadsheet that can be viewed on the web, an Android mobile, and even his Pebble smartwatch. After sharing his ingenious design via twitter, he has inspired many others to concoct their own homespun solutions to their medical devices. User-driven technology is driving device innovation, and has even prompted the FDA to reclassify remote glucose-monitoring devices, hence delaying the approval process for large device companies.

To learn more about the do-it-yourself revolution, click here.

Lily Stauffer

February 19, 2016 0

Rosa Delauro, a Democrat congresswoman from Connecticut, introduced bill H.R 4565 on 2/12/16 that bans DTC ads in the first three years from approval. It also allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to continue the ban if the drug has had significant adverse events during those three years.

The drug companies can apply to do DTC and the Secretary can approve if it is a positive for public health. Obviously this bill is meant to permanently kill DTC since the adverse event standard is so vague the Secretary can point to them as an excuse to continue bans after three years.

Bob Ehrlich
“This bill will go nowhere…”
-Bob Ehrlich

I doubt this bill has any chance to get voted on. First, it is unconstitutional to ban commercial speech without proving the ban is the only way to protect public health. Second, the bill is so vaguely written as to allow such broad and arbitrary authority to the Secretary as to make it clearly a ban of speech. Third, the idea that commercial speech must first apply for that right and prove public interest in advance is unconstitutional.

This bill is merely a political statement from a hard core Liberal democrat. It is the type of nonsensical response from a politician who has no interest in understanding the real cost of drug development. Ms. Delauro prefers to blame advertising for drug prices being high. Somehow, she believes, that if only drugs could be prohibited from advertising, prices would drop dramatically. This is absolutely false and has no basis in fact.

While this bill will go nowhere it does show there is an appetite among Democrats to make drug companies a campaign cause this year. We can expect more bills to end DTC tax deductions, allow foreign drug imports, force drug companies to disclose promotion spending, give Medicare price negotiation authority, and limit patent life.

Any bill introduced in Congress that limits DTC is serious and sets a dangerous tone. The drug companies, media suppliers, and advertising agencies need to call their representatives to voice their opposition. The drug industry employs over 800,000 people directly in the United States and over 3 million indirectly rely on it for jobs. Those jobs can only survive with a profitable drug industry not singled out for punitive treatment. China and India would love to have those jobs and politicians need to be careful vilifying our vitally important drug business.

Bob Ehrlich

February 17, 2016 0

Novartis has just started a non branded disease education campaign called “Keep it Pumping.” You can see the television ad on the Novartis web site: This Novartis web site discusses the serious condition of heart failure which has only a 50% survival rate after five years from diagnosis.

The ad is very memorable, showing a man sitting in his living room as it fills with water, a metaphor for the rising danger of a heart not pumping well. I have read some physicians are concerned the ad is alarmist. They think the ad will stoke unnecessary fears among patients. Obviously Novartis thinks the serious tone is appropriate.

Bob Ehrlich
“Impactful ads need to be attention getting.”
-Bob Ehrlich

Like all drug companies that do disease education ads, Novartis is running the campaign because it has a new drug to treat heart failure. The drug was approved mid-last year. It is called Entresto, a combination of an old drug, valsartan and a new drug sacubitril. Novartis clinical studies show it is significantly better at reducing mortality versus ACE inhibitor enalapril.

While the ad apparently annoys some doctors, it is certainly memorable. The visual of a flood in a man’s living room while he seems oblivious to it is a good way to show the hidden symptoms and dangers of heart failure. The appropriateness of running an ad that may alarm patients is a legitimate issue. On the other hand, any disease that causes death in 50% of those who have it, is cause for alarm and therefore having an impactful campaign is warranted.

Like all these newer premium priced drugs, the advertisers will face sticker shock from those patients who have problems getting reimbursement or have high co-pays. The recent trend for drug makers has been to advertise drugs regardless of price. They want to create demand as this helps push reluctant payers to cover the drug. Most insurance companies would prefer patients use much cheaper, albeit, less effective old line treatments. DTC for newer drugs is trying to create patient awareness that there are very effective treatments now available. Cost/benefit will be debated by the payers and patient demand has been an important dynamic in pushing payers to cover the newer treatments.

I doubt many Americans who see this ad will suffer undue alarm. Basically, it is designed to get people to be aware that heart failure happens to many of us as we age. The incidence is about 20% over our lifetime. Novartis clearly benefits from encouraging discussions on heart failure because their new drug is premium priced.

I definitely disagree that the ad creates undue fear. Heart failure is not acne, or toe fungus and perhaps a sense of urgency is needed in the creative approach. People who see the ad who might be at risk for heart failure should discuss it with their doctor. Whether he will suggest Entresto or something else is between patient and doctor. Calls for pulling the ad are extreme as there is zero evidence consumers will panic or quake with fear. When I saw it, I paid attention and looked up the web site, not out of fear but out of interest in my health.

Novartis certainly will have to take seriously the opinions of its prescribers and I am sure is tracking physician attitudes. Drug companies should test disease awareness DTC in advance with both consumers and physicians. No ad should be pulled, however, based on a few negative comments. Impactful ads need to be attention getting. Keep It Pumping succeeds and I would keep pumping it out to consumers.

Bob Ehrlich

February 5, 2016 0

The television campaign for plaque psoriasis fighter Consentyx started in January. The new drug from Novartis is joining Humira, Otezla, Stelara, Remicade and Enbrel. All have been DTC advertisers in a market affecting about 7.5 million Americans.

Cosentyx is taking an interesting DTC creative approach. It is using testimonials from real patients who ask others to see them, not just their psoriasis. The “See Me” campaign asks people to recognize that people suffering from psoriasis do not want to be stared at, or avoided out of fears psoriasis is contagious. The patients want others to see them as fighters searching for something to clear their skin.

Bob Ehrlich
“Cosentyx is taking an interesting DTC creative approach…”
-Bob Ehrlich

The opening 20 seconds sets up nicely the sell copy on the drug itself. It says Consentyx is a different kind of treatment that results in 80% of people seeing 75-90% skin clearance after three months. In a very crowded DTC market, I think the new Cosentyx spot breaks through nicely. The “See Me” headline superimposed over the patient faces on screen is a nice way to carry the approach through print and Internet ads.

The ending, after the usual warnings, ends with a nice tag line, “Find a clearer path forward.” It is also interesting that instead of ask your doctor, they say ask your dermatologist. It seems they want to get specialists on board before getting generalists to prescribe it. Cosentyx, as with most of these new drugs is expensive, costing thousands to treat. The higher prices are what is the incentive to do heavy DTC spending in a relatively small patient population.

Like all these newer premium priced drugs, the advertisers will face sticker shock from those patients who have problems getting reimbursement or have high co-pays. The recent trend for drug makers has been to advertise drugs regardless of price. They want to create demand as this helps push reluctant payers to cover the drug. Most insurance companies would prefer patients use much cheaper, albeit, less effective old line treatments. DTC for newer drugs is trying to create patient awareness that there are very effective treatments now available. Cost/benefit will be debated by the payers and patient demand has been an important dynamic in pushing payers to cover the newer treatments.

Would payers cover these new premium priced drugs if DTC did not exist? My guess is it would take much longer for coverage and be available to many fewer patients without patient awareness and requests.

Bob Ehrlich