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June 24, 2016 Bob Ehrlich0

The AHSP, the organization that represents 43,000 pharmacists and technicians in hospitals and other acute care settings, called for banning DTC. This was a change from previous positions that supported DTC in limited use. The AHSP does not represent retail pharmacy but it is still an important voice in health care. Along with the AMA this call for a ban adds fuel to the political fire related to drug company bashing over pricing and marketing.

Bob Ehrlich
“The AHSP..cites.. much misstated data on drug marketing..”
-Bob Ehrlich

The AHSP statement calling for a ban cites the much misstated data that says drug companies spend more on marketing than research. They also say that DTC can be misleading. Therefore they feel that pharmacists and other clinicians can best help consumers with drug selection. This reasoning is faulty. Drug company marketing data includes sales force expense, sampling costs, physician ads, as well as DTC. The drug companies spend over $50 billion on R&D. That is ten times the amount spent on DTC.
Are drug ads misleading? FDA requires all claims to be clinically supported and requires fair balance. They review all ads for accuracy. While advertising is designed to sell, drug ads are the most scrutinized of all advertising categories.
Despite the facts, the anti DTC forces are a major concern for drug advertisers. Hilary and Trump are not friends of the drug industry. It is clear from their statements that neither has their facts straight. Hilary sees drug companies as her enemy, an evil profit hungry industry. Trump sees drug companies as one of his vendors to be squeezed like a mattress supplier for his hotels.
What drug company employees and their media and agency partners must do is let Congress know the facts. Take the time to educate your Congressional representatives how important drug advertising is and why it is important to consumers. Have them understand that DTC does not raise prices. Banning commercial speech for lawful products is a bad idea. What category will be next?
The call for a ban by hospital pharmacists is hypocritical given the huge investment hospitals are making in DTC. Almost every hospital advertises these days. These same hospital based pharmacists think it is acceptable to advertise surgery on television but not drugs.
DTC advertising is not perfect but deserves to be one way for patients to get information. If pharmacists think banning information helps patients, they are wrong. Their input is valuable but to say they and the physician should have a monopoly on patient communication is unrealistic in the Internet era.

June 23, 2016 admin0

The irony of the surname of 19th century Scottish author and reformer Samuel Smiles resonates within the pharmaceutical industry in its efforts to bring disease education and prevention to a huge and diverse population. Smiles stated, “Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success, for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles” – which begets smiles. Pharma has hope for humanity through drug development/dissemination, strategy interventions and funding for both ancient diseases of poverty in developing nations and non-communicable illnesses in developed nations.

Ancient Diseases of Poverty in Developing Nations

DiPersioartwork1-June2016 Background. Unclean water systems, degenerative housing and unsuitable waste disposal in poverty-stricken developing countries are contributing factors to longstanding tropical diseases. The aim of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to eradicate the following nine tropical diseases within the next four years:  Chagas disease, Dengue, Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease), Leprosy, Leishmaniasis, Lymphatic filariasis, Malaria, Onchocerciasis and Schistosomiasis. The great disparity between 90% of diseases being dependent on only 10% of global medical research mandates a call to action to produce better medicines and vaccines. The 90/10 gap is even more disconcerting when considering that over 1 million people succumb to Malaria each year because new drugs to combat the disease lose their effectiveness in a relatively short period of time due to the parasite quickly adapting itself to the newly created drug.

DiPersioartwork2-June2016 Strategy interventions. Vaccinations, preventive chemotherapy and concentrated disease management will control and eliminate these targeted diseases. One-time dosages of high quality and safe medications are on tap to be administered as treatment for these nine diseases. On the other hand, single applications are not yet available to handle protozoan and bacterial diseases. Improved case detection and decentralized clinical management are two ways that the WHO intends to prevent mortality for such complex illnesses.

Funding. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) are only a few of the public-private partnerships (PPIs) formed by governments, health agencies and private industry to overcome tropical diseases. Under the TB Alliance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundations pledged $40 million to develop new Tuberculosis drugs. The MMV raised $107 million to create anti-malarial drugs while the GAVI raised $2.3 billion to provide access to valuable but insufficiently used vaccines. Along with PPIs, several pharmaceutical companies are donating an unlimited supply of drugs as long as needed to treat tropical diseases. At the same time that GlaxoSmithKline is providing Alberndazole for handling Lymphatifilariasis worldwide, Novartis is contributing an indefinite supply of multidrug therapy blister packs of rifampicin, clofaziminie and dapsone to deal with Leprosy.

Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Developed Nations

DiPersioartwork3-June2016Background. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are aptly defined as “non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases that may be caused by genetic or behavioral factors and generally have a slow progression and long duration which include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory ailments and diabetes.” They are impacted by genes, stressful lifestyles in the age of technology and early life environmental factors which are connected to the amount and timing of toxicants and nutrients that infiltrate the placenta. Deaths caused by NCDs are on the rise; mortality is projected to increase by more than half in a little more than a decade.

Strategy interventions. As part of the WHO Global Action Plan, 80% of the basic technologies and high-priority medicines will be made easily available. Lowering deaths from NCDs by 25% by the year 2025 (known as the 25 by 25 goal), lessening current tobacco use by 30% and minimizing the detrimental use of alcohol and lack of physical activity each by 10% are key components of the program. The daunting task of persuading a population to update its life regimen appreciably based on scientific findings may seem unattainable. However, fundamental interventions that are both inexpensive and highly impactful have been identified to assist in the process. Specifically, the WHO initiative addresses a multitude of risk factors that promote healthy living by providing guidance on how to:  1) educate the public on preventing and reducing tobacco use and overconsumption of alcohol; 2) engage in substituting more fruit and vegetables for less fatty foods while reducing amounts of salt; and 3) expand physical activity. Bringing the fight against NCDs and the promotion of healthy living forward at the national level can be brought to fruition if merged into governmental policies that support legislative action.

Funding. Disease prevention and education programs established under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are supported by the formidable endeavors of the National Institutes of Health Research (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). For over 20 years, the CDC has provided grants to state and major city health departments to identify risk factors and organize systems to monitor epidemiology and track vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2012, the CDC funded a Field Epidemiology Training Program with over $12 million to prepare trained public health workers to respond to NCDs. In the same year, NIH awarded $14.4 million to scientific institutions for NCD research and surveillance.

In summary, health care in developing nations is designed to treat infectious diseases with ancient diseases of poverty; non-communicable diseases are the priority of developed nations. Pharma is committed to bringing disease education and prevention to both worlds with specific strategies and funding. Its goals are based on the strong desire to reach the masses with pharmaceutical treatments that provide overall wellness and longevity by eradicating ancient tropical diseases and controlling NCDs. The positive attitude of pharma is making a difference in many lives and bringing hope, miracles – and smiles.



“Accelerating Work to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases:  A Roadmap for Implementation.” World Health Organization. (2015)

“Fighting Diseases of Developing Countries.” Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. (2013)

“Preventing Emerging Infectious Diseases:  A Strategy for the 21st Century Overview of the Updated CDC Plan.” Center for Disease Control. (2014)

“Primary Prevention:  Avoiding Non-Communicable Diseases by Reducing Early Life Exposure.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2015)

“The U.S. Government and Global Non-Communicable Diseases.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2014)

June 22, 2016 Jennifer Kovack0

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has joined the American Medical Association (AMA) in calling for a ban on DTC advertising. Announced during an annual meeting of the ASHP House of Delegates during their Summer Meetings and Exhibition last week, the national pharmacist group approved a new policy calling on Congress to ban all DTC advertising. This action demonstrates a move away from their previous policy – which was first adopted in 1997 and repeatedly refined over the years – that opposed DTC ads unless they met certain criteria.

The organization cited a 2002 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which stated that “pharmaceutical companies have increased spending on DTC advertising more rapidly than they have increased spending on research and development … DTC advertising appears to increase drug spending and utilization.” ASHP also opined that despite FDA regulation being “generally effective” over DTC, their “oversight has not prevented the dissemination of misleading advertising by some pharmaceutical companies.” ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP, stated via the news release, “ASHP believes that medication education provided by pharmacists and other providers as part of a provider-patient relationship is a much more effective way to make patients aware of available therapies, rather than relying on direct-to-consumer advertising.”

While this is just the latest news to put DTC in the crosshairs once again, instituting a ban would ultimately harm knowledge sharing and patient empowerment. DTC not only creates awareness, it also helps educate consumers with accurate information, leading to better doctor discussions, decision-making, and, ultimately, patient outcomes.

June 22, 2016 Linda Ruschau0

Where do consumers go to find information?

Don’t overthink it—the simple answer is Google. In fact, the last time Google released data in 2012, the search engine giant reported more than 1 trillion searches every year. It’s only safe to assume that number has grown significantly since then.

But where are these consumers getting their health information? Where are they learning about disease education and prevention?

Oh sure, they may still be Googling medications or symptoms, but how many actually trust the varied results found on the internet? Or more importantly, if they do research a medication they want to try, how many are doing so without consulting their doctor first?

When it comes to disease education, prevention and medication, consumers still turn to the most trusted source—their doctors. And if that’s where consumers go for specialty information, shouldn’t you focus your marketing efforts at the point of care?

CIXR_Enviro_3DHeartAnat_Color_10June2016Consider this PatientPoint research data:

  • 65% of patients believe their doctor only allows a brand to advertise in their office if they feel it is the most effective product available.
  • 62% believe their doctor has personal experience with the brands advertised in brochures and allows advertising only for those they consider best for patients.

The bottom line is that patients still trust physicians to make the right decisions for their health—including disease education, prevention and medication. Therefore, as a brand marketer, if you want to reach more consumers, you have to reach more doctors. More importantly, the doctors have to trust your brand.

There’s that word again: trust. It really is a core component to the marketing world, and it’s what the entire point-of-care industry is built upon. Patients trust their doctors to prescribe medication that is in their best interests, and doctors trust brands and health education providers to offer solutions that improve health outcomes, efficiency and patient satisfaction.

As we all know though, it takes a lifetime to build up trust and only a second to lose it all. It’s something that must be pursued daily, with no shortcuts.

At PatientPoint, we are honored to work with leading brands to help them connect and build trust with their customers in the point-of-care industry.  We take our role very seriously. It’s why we reference only medical, professional, government, and not-for-profit organizations as sources when researching health topics and consult medical reviewers to provide oversight of all our editorial content.

This approach ensures patients and physicians receive balanced and objective health education that they can trust. It also has proven results (which we’ve shared before, but are worth repeating):

  • Nine out of 10 patients report learning a tip they can take action on right away.
  • 96% of patients agree the education and technology solutions PatientPoint delivers makes health information easy to understand.
  • 98% of healthcare providers believe our programs are a valuable patient education tool.

When patients and physicians trust the education they receive, it spells good things for brand marketers, too. Sponsors experience nearly five-to-one ROI and can average 12% new prescription lift with education solutions at influential points of care and engagement.

Now those are results you can trust!

June 22, 2016 Lily Stauffer0

Following the logic of value-based purchasing, drugs with promise of extending life and treating rare diseases should have a higher purchasing value than those with unclear clinical efficacy results and economic benefits. Sounds reasonable. However, what the healthcare system is lacking is a straightforward method of assessing which drugs are both efficacious and cost-conscious.

To address this need for standardization of the clinical decision making process, The National Pharmaceutical Council is developing “Guiding Practices for Patient-Centered Value Assessment Frameworks”. Leading the pack is Steven Pearson’s Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, known as ICER.

To read more about valuing breakthrough formulas, click here.

June 22, 2016 Givi Topchishvili0

Givi_2The necessity of clinical trials as a means of assessing potentially life-saving interventions is widely accepted by healthcare providers and medical researchers alike.  Also generally agreed upon is the difficulty of finding patients who meet the necessary inclusion criteria to participate in these clinical trials. In part, this challenge can be attributed to the administrative burden of having to match potential patients to specific selection criteria. Additionally, the traditional patient pool is further limited by geographical proximity to the clinic or laboratory where the trial takes place. I asked my colleague and the CEO of Prime Access, Chip Weinstein, for his thoughts on what could be done to help recruitment. Here is Chip’s response:

“Brian Clark’s TrialMatch hack, revealed at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon, seeks to jump the administrative hurdle by extracting the inclusion and exclusion criteria from existing studies posted on, and matching those criteria to the user profiles of potential clinical patients.  Meanwhile, Apple’s new open source platform, ResearchKit, aims to circumvent the physical distance barrier between patient and research facility by using the already standard iPhone features to measure and record patient data. ResearchKit’s launch introduced five new apps to the platform, each of which focuses on a different health issue. Within days of the initial launch, the studies drew thousands of new participants, who were able to use their phones to take basic physical tests without traveling to a laboratory.

“While both of these platforms are certainly steps in the right direction, neither TechCrunch nor ResearchKit quite answer the question of how to persuade people to sign up in the first place, nor do they address the full range of barriers preventing willing volunteers from participating in clinical trials. By relying solely on medical records and clinical inclusion and exclusion criteria, both Apple and Clark are overlooking a major determinant of health behaviors: cultural identity.

“According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Hispanic Americans increased by 43% and now comprises 16% of the U.S. population; African Americans make up 12.6% of the total U.S. population, and the Asians American population increased by 43.3%, and now comprises 4.8% of the U.S. population. There is no Census data on LGBT individuals, but the Williams Institute estimates that 3.5% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT. These are not insignificant numbers in a population of approximately 320 million, yet minority groups consistently report lower satisfaction with their medical care, and have lower health outcomes than their Caucasian counterparts. Numerous studies have attributed these disparities in access to and use of health services to socioeconomic factors and health insurance coverage.  While these are certainly material observations, it is also important to give weight to the pertinent cultural factors.

153831142“We at Prime Access understand that a discussion about health cannot be separated from its cultural context, which is why we utilize a Total Market approach to reach a demographically diverse audience. As of 2014, the Selig Center reports that the Hispanic market holds the highest minority group buying power, at $1.3 trillion, with the African American market not far behind at $1.1 trillion. Asian American buying power is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2019, and Witeck Communications estimates the current buying power of LGBT identifying individuals at $884 billion. To maximize revenue-generating potential in a complex and multicultural world, it is imperative to understand the unique identities and interests of target consumers.

“It is equally important to recognize that while cultural groups do have shared experiences, they each have their own singular needs. For example, Hispanic and LGBT patient groups both face obstacles when accessing healthcare. However, whereas for Hispanic patients these barriers appear rooted in a lack of understanding of their cultural needs, LGBT patients are more likely to experience institutional stigma in response to their identity. Consequently, the lack of access to health services manifests in different health outcomes for each group: Hispanic patients tend to suffer more from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma, whereas LGBT patients tend to have a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Therefore, marketers must employ different approaches to engage each group and meet its specific needs.

“To that end, mobile phones provide an accessible and versatile vehicle which can be used to reach multiple demographic groups simultaneously. According to a Pew Research Center, 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 63% of adult mobile phone owners use their phone to access the Internet, which makes cell phones the perfect platform for the development of a patient-friendly mobile app or service.  Moreover, separate apps can be developed to target different groups with demographic-specific material, and thus capture potential clinical trial patients in studies most relevant to their needs.

“In a diverse and increasingly industrialized global community, it would be wise to allocate resources to advancing technology that can be used to target specific patient needs. Because health care decisions are so deeply entwined with cultural identity, it is necessary to address every facet of prospective consumers when seeking to engage their participation. Through Total Market strategy, marketers will be able to understand and provide for the specific needs of a wider, more diverse audience.”

June 3, 2016 Bob Ehrlich0

Let me cite a headline in a recent 5/27 Associated Press story. “Superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotic found in the United States.” For the naïve critics who want to hammer drug companies who do you think will develop new antibiotics? Will it be the same caliber folks who run the TSA? The Post Office? The Veterans Administration? There are good people in government for sure but they are not wizards when it comes to finding new drugs.

Bob Ehrlich
“Government is very bad at solving problems.”
-Bob Ehrlich

I am afraid that Hillary and Bernie are going to need their hated drug industry to stop us from dying from a bacterial infection from a routine scrape, cut, or infection. I think most Americans have this media driven view that heroes working for government discover cures. Television and movies are filled with CDC or university scientists who discover cures to stop pandemics. Well my friends a Brad Pitt character is not going to save you from Zika or a new plague. The heroes will be named Pfizer, Glaxo, Merck and Sanofi. Of course those working there are never the movie heroes.

Government is very bad at solving problems. They could not develop a web site to enroll Obamacare patients. Do you really think they will save your butt from resistant bacteria? So I gladly support high profits for incentives to develop new antibiotics and vaccines. Incentives work Bernie. You may think drug profits are outlandish but your Medicare for all will guarantee we strip incentives away for break through drugs. It sounds nice to have cheap drugs for all until we get a superbug that none of those price controlled drugs can kill.

Bernie will say we can create some new government funded research organization to do drug development without the dastardly profit motive. With the bureaucratic operation we have seen in government, it is likely that organization will be slow, inefficient, and attract the least talented scientists.

Next time a candidate says drug companies make too much money think again. They actually will keep you alive. You know who makes outlandish profits? How about Hillary charging a university $225,000 for a canned speech. How about George Clooney getting $20 million for a movie role? But drugs are different they say. They are needed to save lives and should be cheap. Yes, they do save lives and that is why we should be happy to provide fantastic incentives to keep us alive.

The nice thing about free market pricing is that in the next pandemic drug companies will supply the good old USA first. The price controlled economies will get what they pay for and will have to wait in line for new cures. Americans may complain about drug prices but will be thankful their money provides incentives to drug companies to keep investing in cures.