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March 29, 2018 admin0

The FDA recently released “Drugs@FDA Express”, a mobile app that allows users to search for information about FDA-approved brand and generic prescriptions, OTC medications, and biological therapeutic products. The mobile app is a “light” version of the full website, with the app omitting letters and reviews – although the app’s homepage states this and includes a link to the website for “the complete version.”

Users of the free app can search by drug name, active ingredient, or application number. They can also view the last seven days of product approvals, as well as links to FDA web pages and FDA help and support (including the agency’s glossary, FAQs, and emailing the Division of Drug Information, FDA/CDER).

FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, stated in the news release announcing the app: “Consumers are embracing digital health technologies to inform everyday decisions. From fitness trackers to mobile applications tracking insulin administration, these digital tools can empower consumers with a wealth of valuable health information. Advancing mobile apps that inform people about their health and medical choices represents a significant public health opportunity and is a high priority for the FDA. The FDA is continuously seeking ways to bring information to consumers in more accessible formats. Today, with the launch of the Drugs@FDA Express mobile app, we’re bringing the public important information about drugs in an easy-to-use, mobile format. We hope that by making this important health information more easily accessible we can help empower patients and providers in making their treatment decisions.”

The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

March 29, 2018 admin0

Earlier this month, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced a bill to end the advertising cost tax deduction; this is separate from the larger tax cut bill from last December which failed to remove the practice. This latest attempt, Senate Bill 2478 a.k.a. The End Taxpayers Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Much like previous bills similar in nature, industry pushback from both pharma and media companies alike is expected to be significant – largely citing the arguments that removing such an ad deduction for pharma would be discriminatory; it is a threat to the First Amendment; and it would prevent or limit important, valued health information from reaching consumers.

Jim Davidson, Executive Director of The Advertising Coalition, spoke with DTC Perspectives on this matter: “Section 162(a) of the U.S. Tax Code allows any U.S. business to deduct the ‘ordinary and necessary costs’ of conducting their business. Those costs include salaries of employees, office rent, business supplies – and yes, the cost of advertising. Rather than ending a taxpayer subsidy for advertising, S. 2478 would impose a tax on advertising for prescription medicines that does not apply to any other business advertising. Previous efforts to tax DTC advertising have been defeated because they threaten the First Amendment protection for commercial speech. The proposed legislation overlooks the information that this advertising provides to consumers who may be unaware of a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, depression, or Hepatitis C, among other diseases. Even more important, watching an ad may be the motivating factor that prompts someone with a medical condition to see a doctor for treatment.” (Jim will discuss this, as well as other Threats to Pharmaceutical Advertising, in his presentation at the DTC National Conference in Boston, April 18-20.)

“The Coalition [for Healthcare Communication], the 4A’s and our advertising allies will be taking this bill seriously, but it is unlikely that it will be enacted in this session of Congress,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp in a news release in response to the bill. “While the provision is likely to garner some Democratic and even a bit of bipartisan support, the Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to hold hearings or set the provision for a vote.” He added: “The Coalition has long opposed such a change in the tax law. Proposing a ban or tax penalty on prescription drug advertising suggests that consumer ignorance should be preferred to consumer information and involvement in healthcare decision making.”

March 29, 2018 admin0

In the latest Gallup poll, 55% of Americans “worry a great deal” about the availability and affordability of healthcare. The concerns around healthcare top the list, beating out other major concerns such as Crime and violence, Federal spending and the budget deficit, and Availability of guns. A further 23% ranked their concern level at “a fair amount” and another 23% classified themselves under “only a little or not at all.”*

According to Gallup, this is the fifth consecutive year that healthcare availability and affordability tops the list. (The first year that healthcare was asked about was in 2001.)  Senior Editor Jeffrey M. Jones, PhD, noted in the article highlighting the results that, “It is the only issue of the 11 Gallup has measured consistently to maintain this level of worry.”

Jones added that after being nearly “equally likely to worry about [healthcare] in between 2014 and 2016, after major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect,” currently “Democrats have typically worried more than Republicans about the issue, including a 72% to 39% difference this year.”

With President Trump and Congress “taking steps to undo key provisions of the law,” Jones predicts that “Americans’ anxiety about the healthcare situation should persist. … Democrats’ especially high concern about healthcare could make it a mobilizing issue for the party as it seeks to win control of Congress this fall.”

For more information and poll results, click here.



* Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 1-8, 2018, with a random sample of 1,041 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 


March 29, 2018 admin0

Out-of-home advertising company, Brite Media Group, has acquired Mesmerize Marketing, a leader in patient education at the point-of-care. “Gregory Leibert, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mesmerize, and Craig Mait, Chief Operating Officer, will join Brite Media in leadership roles and will continue to operate the Mesmerize business along with their existing team,” outlined the news release.

With Mesmerize’s “targeted educational materials including wallboards, literature distribution, branded medical essentials, and mobile integration to patients and care givers in waiting rooms, exam rooms, and other high traffic areas of doctors’ offices, dental offices, community-based organizations, AIDS service organizations, and independent pharmacies,” Brite Media now has strong access to the point-of-care space. In return, “[t]he partnership with Brite Media gives Mesmerize Marketing the resources necessary to scale our rapidly growing point-of-care networks,” said Leibert. “Mesmerize will also look to expand our patient education and deliver significant results to our customers, by supplementing our industry-leading static media presence with new static and digital media platforms.”

Michael Ellis, Brite Media’s President and Chief Operating Officer, added that “Mesmerize will perfectly complement Brite’s current media platforms.  The combined companies will leverage the strengths, creativity, and human capital of both businesses to continue delivering outstanding results to our customers.” Brite Media had been acquired by The Beekman Group in 2014. Since then, Brite Media “has more than doubled in size through organic growth and acquisitions led by Beekman and management.”

March 29, 2018 admin0

Andrew Schirmer has taken on the role of Chief Executive Officer with Ogilvy CommonHealth North America, a WPP Health & Wellness company. He returns to his roots, having started his career with the company in 1987. Schirmer was most recently President with McCann Global Health, overseeing the firm’s global and public health unit. According to the news release, he was “responsible for leading the work the agency did for UNICEF, the US government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and private sector organizations, and the groundbreaking ‘Immunity Charm’ campaign, which tracks vaccinations on behalf of the Afghanistan Health Ministry, and for which the agency won a Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in 2017.”

Mike Hudnall, CEO of WPP Health & Wellness, stated in the news release: “Andrew exemplifies the values we hold dear: excellence in client partnership, support for our incredible people, and an unbridled passion for making the world a better and healthier place. His professionally diverse background in healthcare marketing, consumer wellness, and public health and policy positions him well to help accelerate OCH’s diversification and growth strategy moving forward. Andrew is a champion of great work and true visionary who will bring a human-centered leadership to OCH’s culture. I have complete confidence that Andrew is the right person to unlock the potential of our people and our business as we move forward.”

Schirmer will report directly to Hudnall and work closely with Marc Weiner, Ogilvy CommonHealth’s COO; Darlene Dobry, managing partner; and Terry Cully, managing director in Canada. Schirmer fills the vacant CEO position after Matt Giegerich’s departure in spring 2017. Giegerich founded his own company, Lucky 7 Consulting, before becoming CEO with Inception Companies, a leading provider of video production, interactive visual solutions, broadcast and webcast platforms for virtual meetings, and audio/visual support.


March 23, 2018 Bob Ehrlich0

Kantar Media reported full year 2017 DTC spending declined 4.6%. Is this decline any reason for concern among the DTC industry? No, not really. DTC spending has become an integral part of drug brand marketing. There is no drug industry talk of ending it or reducing its importance. There was such talk during the temporary decline of spending about five years ago but that never took hold.

Bob Ehrlich
“Growth in any given year will depend on new brand entries…”
-Bob Ehrlich

There were several CEOs then who were questioning whether DTC was hurting the drug industry in terms of image. There was joy among the critics that maybe drug companies would end the practice of creating consumer demand. I think the drug companies recognized that the critics would not change their negative views even if DTC was ended. The critics did not like drug companies before the 1997 spending surge and although DTC angered them more, that is not their biggest issue. It has been and is about price. Unless drug makers agree with critics they make obscene profits and cut their prices to generic levels; there will be no peace with the critics. If there were no DTC, price issues would remain. DTC is a convenient talking point and used by critics to lead the public to believe they are being manipulated by greedy drug makers.

So back to the decline of 4.6%. Kantar reported that magazines and Internet companies shouldered the whole decline. In fact television DTC was up over 6% in 2017. The print media industry has a selling job ahead to keep their publications profitable. This is not just about their share of drug ads but a fight for viability of traditional hard copy magazines. Print is still a place to see greater detail on drug benefits and risks and I expect the major print conglomerates to innovate to keep readers and advertisers.

DTC is now a mature ad category. Growth in any given year will depend on new brand entries and when brands are going off patent. We can therefore expect years with growth and years with decline. The 4.6% decline is not the start of any long term trend down. As long as drug companies see a positive ROI DTC ads will continue. We saw the rise of diabetes drug ads the past few years along with the end of erectile dysfunction ads as they go off patent. That is what we will continue to see in DTC spending with some categories accelerating and some ending their ads.

Of course there are existential threats to DTC which could make spending decline dramatically. Those include an outright ban, putting a moratorium on for new brands, taxing it by making it non-deductible, or going to single payer healthcare. None of these will happen in the next few years. That being said, a Democrat House and Senate majority could make it very possible that DTC will be a casualty of healthcare reform. Mr. Trump might sign a bill accepting limitations on DTC as part of a bigger bargain on free market practices.

In the meantime, we will see DTC remain strong in total and see spending shifts within media categories.

Certainly media innovators are looking at new digital platforms such as virtual medicine, point of care opportunities, and new ways to gain efficiency from television and print.

March 9, 2018 admin0

DTC Perspectives, the leading forum for direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising thought leaders, will honor a dynamic group of pharmaceutical companies and brands at the much-anticipated DTC National Advertising Awards. The awards are part of the 18th Annual DTC National Conference held April 18-20 in Boston.

Sponsored by Health Monitor Network, the 2018 Advertising Awards showcase the best marketing and advertising across 22 categories, including a Voter’s Choice and Chairman’s Award categories. (Industry voting for the Voter’s Choice category will run in March. Stay tuned for details!) Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners will be announced during the Advertising Awards Dinner held on April 19.

“The DTC National is exciting each year for us as a celebration of the creativity and effectiveness of DTC consumer promotion,” says Ken Freirich, President of Health Monitor Network. “As an entrepreneurial company celebrating our 35th anniversary, developing creative solutions to facilitate patient and HCP dialogue, we are pleased to sponsor the awards and to recognize the many successes in the marketplace.”

[button link=””]View the 2018 Finalists[/button]

March 9, 2018 Bob Ehrlich0

Alex Azar the new HHS Secretary has promised to make healthcare value a top goal. Azar says he will shake up the healthcare system to deliver value to patients. He delivered that message this week to hospital executives at a convention in Washington. Azar said that America is not getting enough for the money spent on health services.

In his speech he outlined ways he plans to encourage better bang for the buck. Azar wants patients to have control of their online health records so they are easier to access across providers. He also wants much greater price transparency so patients know how much they are spending. This is because patient deductibles and co-pays have risen so much that patients, not insurers, are the payers for much of their care. Azar said the fee for service model must change to encourage delivery of outcomes rather than just encourage more tests and procedures.

Bob Ehrlich
“It is likely we will see government…intercede on drug pricing.”
-Bob Ehrlich

Citing the Trump philosophy that shaking things up is necessary, Azar promised that innovation will be encouraged through the Medicare system. He vowed to remove regulation that impedes innovative approaches. Although he was talking to hospital executives, Azar said drug companies and doctors also must also deliver value.

Drug companies will be under intense pressure to justify the value of newer and often much more expensive treatments. From Azar’s speech and Trump’s past criticism of drug prices, it is likely we will see government be more willing to intercede on drug pricing. Whether that is through Medicare price negotiation, reimportation, or pressure on patents, it is clear drug companies will feel pressure.

What does all this mean for DTC? It makes it more likely drug companies will advertise branded drugs. They want to raise awareness among the public and doctors of new treatments. By doing so that keeps pressure on payers to cover the newer drugs that are generally much more expensive than older alternatives. While advertising drugs that cost $100k a year might annoy insurance companies it does force them to decide faster on formulary status. They have to respond to their consumer and physician base about why a life saving drug is not covered. Insurers are justified in demanding outcome research but it is hard to refuse covering a drug that extends the lives of patients, particularly if it is advertised widely.

What is clear is American consumers cannot keep paying higher premiums, deductibles, and co-pays that are well above their wage increases. That is not sustainable and the public will demand action. Azar saying a shake up will occur is not bluster. It has to happen or else the single payer advocates will get what they want, a government run healthcare system.

March 2, 2018 Bob Ehrlich0

Alphabet, formerly known as Google, has decided to enter the health insurance business according to a CNBC report. The entry of big data companies into health insurance could have significant impact on costs. The Alphabet health subsidiary is called Verily. Why might big data companies affect costs of care?

They have tremendous capabilities to know their user base’s behavioral tendencies. That could lead to better analysis on how to improve communicating targeted health information. This capability is both on a group level and increasingly on an individual basis. Verily could have an enormous opportunity to effect change in terms of health behavior. Knowing us as they do, one can envision an automated outreach to help prevent and treat illness before it escalates into expensive hospital care.

Bob Ehrlich
“Verily could have an enormous opportunity…”
-Bob Ehrlich

Verily will likely try to work with existing insurers, both public and private, to use their data smarts to lower payer costs. This could be through better identification of populations to message needed health information or to provide individual outreach to individuals identified as high risk or non-compliant on treatment.

If it sounds like big brother watching over you, it is. We may eventually see Verily or another data giant like Amazon become your health advisor and remind you to take a diagnostic test, track your vital signs, analyze your DNA, find the best doctor, make your appointments, store your medical data, and potentially use algorithms to diagnose and offer treatment plans. One can envision an avatar of a doctor replacing the real doctor one day.

Verily is likely trying to make insurance cheaper and more widely available. Clearly, they have a huge financial incentive to enter the market where premiums have become too high for many Americans. I love to hear when innovative private companies are entering the health care sector. I bet they will do a better job at innovation than HHS or some other government department. Whether they merely support the existing insurance industry with consulting or expect to replace it entirely remains unclear.

Drug companies should expect these data innovators to be adept at negotiating prices based on patient outcomes. Verily and others will eventually be able to advise providers, payers, and patients which branded drugs to use. They may also be the ones to sell drugs to patients. No one expected Amazon to dominate the retail world 10 years ago. I would not bet against Verily, Amazon, or a new tech company to reinvent the whole health care delivery system. The world of 2028 will be significantly different in how we interact with payers and providers. Of course, if we get single payer government run healthcare then all bets are off as to innovation. Let’s hope the innovative tech giants get their chance first.