Latest News

June 25, 2020 admin0

Sponsored Content

Earlier this year, Rx EDGE Media Network / LeveragePoint Media acquired Brandperx. The company has now transitioned into a brand-new company, InStep Health. In an interview with DTC Perspectives’ Chairman, Bob Ehrlich, InStep Health’s president and CEO, Nathan Lucht, discussed ways their programs educate patients and consumers, providing brands with new opportunities to reach audiences in meaningful ways.

Bob Ehrlich: The company has undergone some very big changes in a short period of time. In less than a year, you have acquired another company, Brandperx, and undergone a full rebranding. What inspired these changes?

Nathan Lucht: Reflection, evaluation, and ultimately change are all important components of a healthy company—and imperative to performing at your peak. Before we began the acquisition of Brandperx, we had already started reflecting and evaluating, and adding new offerings to our platform. We were improving our targeting capabilities, adding digital programs, and making our data insights even stronger. When we became familiar with Brandperx and their HCP network and relationships, we thought it was a natural fit for us. It provided the perfect opportunity for us to bring even more marketing solutions to pharma marketers that want to educate patients and their providers. As for the rebranding, a new name and aesthetic is the quintessential way to break away from past narratives. We are proud of our past accomplishments from over the last 19 years, but we wanted a new name and look that would convey the excitement we felt about the new offerings.

Bob: What is behind the name ‘InStep Health’?

Nathan: During our background work, we reflected on the strong culture our company (both legacy companies) have and the relationships we have with our clients. There were a few themes that consistently resurfaced, and connection was one of them. The connections between clients’ messages, providers, patients, and consumers. We wanted to produce marketing that matters to care providers and consumers and remain in stride, in sync, and inspired by what’s next. Doctors want to be in step with the patients, and patients want information that’s in step with what they’re going through! That’s what we deliver.

Bob: How big is your network ‒ in physician offices and in pharmacies covered?

Nathan: It’s very large, which is why our programs work so well—because we can reach consumers and patients at healthcare destinations all over the country. Currently our network consists of 250,000+ healthcare providers and more than 30,000 retail locations.

Bob: What is InStep Health able to do better by bringing together services offerings at the pharmacy, HCP, and point of care?

Nathan: Great question. We are delivering brand messages to specific audiences in the physical locations when health is top of mind, and we are making an impact as they use their digital devices whenever and wherever they are. Our platform keeps clients’ products at the forefront throughout their target audience’s entire healthcare continuum.

Bob: What specific products are you offering patients at each step?  What does this network actually look like to a consumer?

Nathan: At the pharmacy, millions of consumers see our media displays in the aisles that offer prescription savings and high-impact educational materials that drive the consumer to the pharmacist or physician to find out more. In the providers’ offices in our network, they’ll see physician-endorsed activation bags and education kits filled with relevant samples, incentives, and other resources. And our addressable digital programs allow microtargeted campaigns to reach the right patients as they move throughout their daily lives.

But what our new platform has really focused on is keeping our clients in step with the consumer’s individual experience ‒ it’s what we call the iX design. We connect the consumer to our client’s brand messages throughout their unique care path with all of the tools we mentioned above, and by inspiring meaningful conversations between patients and healthcare providers for healthier outcomes.

Bob: How have you increased your technical abilities to support these networks?

Nathan: This is an especially exciting area for us! We’ve made a lot of investments in this area and we break that effort into two parts: one, using data from the pharmacy and HCP office networks to create more effective programs. And two, using digital activation programs to provide clients seamless patient reach. From the data perspective, we’ve always been focused on using prescription fulfillment data to place our clients’ programs in exactly the right pharmacies. We’ve now amped that up so that we can do that type of planning in any of our physician offices. And on the digital activation front, we now have technology that we call “Arrivals” that allows us to serve mobile takeover messages as the consumers step into our waiting rooms and our pharmacies. This technology then combines with some leading-edge capabilities in HIPAA-compliant audience targeting when patients aren’t in our point of care settings. All these pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and it’s really great stuff!

Bob: What kind of returns are clients seeing within your network and how are you measuring those?

Nathan: Clients know us for the results we deliver since we have been quantitatively measuring our legacy pharmacy programs literally since day one! So, creating smarter, data-driven programs and measuring their success remains at the core of our new platform. InStep Health has built a flexible measurement approach utilizing best in class data and third-party partners to deliver metrics and insights for every initiative we execute. We can successfully measure prescription lift and ROI in stores. On average our clients see a script lift of 12% and an $8 ROI through the pharmacy alone. We also measure changes in prescribing at the physician level, OTC/CPG sales lift and ROI, increases in physician recommendation and awareness, response to digitally served ads, and digital audience composition. 

Bob: Bringing it back to all of the renovating the company has recently done, what has been the best part of this process?

Nathan: Yes, we have a great new look, and an inspired new name. But personally, to me the best part has been unifying two great companies with their individual strengths and bringing together two incredible teams of people to form one powerhouse. We know we can do really extraordinary things together, and we have just gotten started bringing them into the current landscape of healthcare marketing.

June 25, 2020 admin0

In the latest research update from the Commonwealth Fund, Harvard University, and Phreesia, analysts investigated how office visits have adapted to a “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings revealed a “‘cumulative deficit’ in visits over the last three months (March 15-June 20) is nearly 40 percent,” with the greatest decline being in states that “had an early surge in COVID-19 cases.”

Telemedicine, which was utilized as in-person visits dropped, has begun to decline after peaking in mid-April. The use of telemedicine “remains substanially higher than prior to the pandemic” however.

Furthermore, researchers found that in the week starting June 14th, “visits to some clinical specialties, such as dermatology and rheumatology, have returned to their baseline rates. The cumulative decline in visits from the start of the pandemic is greatest among pediatricians, pulmonologists, and several surgical specialties.”

Data was collected from Phreesia’s clients, which include more than 1,600 provider organizations representing more than 50,000 providers. Visits were captured from February 1 through June 20, 2020.

Click here to read the latest round of findings.

June 25, 2020 admin0

A federal appeals court struck down the pricing disclosure rule for DTC advertising on June 16th. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Merck & Co, Eli Lilly & Co, and Amgen on the grounds that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “acted unreasonably in construing its regulatory authority to include the imposition of a sweeping disclosure requirement that is largely untethered to the actual administration of the Medicare or Medicaid programs. Because there is no reasoned statutory basis for its far-flung reach and misaligned obligations, the Disclosure Rule is invalid and is hereby set aside.”

According to the ruling from the Courts, the “Disclosure Rule strays far off the path of administration for four reasons”:

  1. The list price (wholesale acquisition cost, in this situation) differs from what Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries actually pay. “Beneficiaries typically pay only a fraction … either in the form on a copay or coinsurance.”
  2. The claim that such a pricing disclosure “‘may inform’ consumers” does not clearly indicate if this is directed at Medicare and Medicaid consumers or consumers generally, suggesting an “administrative overreach.” Additionally, with the Secretary’s acknowledgment that a disclosure of such information may backfire by deterring consumers from contacting their healthcare professionals, the federal court ruling stated that “Generating potentially harmful confusion through disclosures to the general public of information that is largely disconnected from Medicare and Medicaid pricing is not a plausible means of administering the programs.”
  3. The Disclosure Rule “regulates advertising directed at the general public and not communications targeted specifically, or even predominantly, to Medicare or Medicaid recipients.”
  4. “The Department’s construction of the statute would seem to give it unbridled power to promulgate any regulation with respect to drug manufacturers that would have the arguable effect of driving down drug prices—or even healthcare costs generally—based on nothing more than their potential salutary financial benefits for the Medicare or Medicaid program. This suggests a staggering delegation of power, far removed from ordinary administration,” noted the federal court’s ruling.

Click here to read the full decision from the US Court of Appeals.

June 25, 2020 Andrew Schirmer0

Vilifying the pharmaceutical industry has long been considered an acceptable public sport. The criticisms have been wide-ranging and near universal at times, with both sides of the political aisle taking their shots. Hollywood movies feed into and perpetuate the systemic belief that Big Pharma comprises evil executives hell-bent on taking advantage of the American consumer-patient. And critics like to point to the fact that pharma innovations have slowed while many “me too” drug sales seem healthy and robust.

In a Gallup poll published last Fall, the pharmaceutical industry was ranked as the worst industry in the US—regarded less favorably than all others, including the oft-maligned industries of oil and gas, law, and the federal government. In fact, the four lowest-rated fields were advertising and public relations, the healthcare industry, the federal government, and—pulling up the rear—the pharmaceutical industry. Personally, it’s sobering to realize that as a healthcare marketer, three out of four of these reviled sectors are directly related to work I not only believe in, but to which I have dedicated more than 30 years of my life.

But then, along came a virus, which led to a pandemic that for all intents and purposes is holding the world hostage and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. And suddenly, people all over the globe are depending on the embattled pharmaceutical industry to play a vital role in the future of…well, our future. Big Pharma—and those of us on its periphery—are starting to be viewed in a very different light as the push for a COVID-19 cure has borne extraordinary innovations in record time, remarkable acts of corporate giving, and turned the healthcare industry on its head. Could it be that the villains are now becoming the saviors?

The demand for companies to band together to create life-saving meds in a crisis isn’t unprecedented. In the early years of WWII, President Roosevelt put a call out for the mass production of penicillin to help prevent infection and save those wounded on the battlefield. Nineteen companies stepped up and one—Pfizer, then a fermentation company—came forward with a way to mass-produce the “miracle drug.” Some might argue that this is perhaps when the seeds of Big Pharma began in earnest.

With all of the positive contribution pharma has made over these last 70+ years, how and when did we end up losing favor? There are very real, scathing and justifiable criticisms that can be traced back to the industry; bad eggs like Martin Shkreli, incidents of life-saving meds not being covered by insurance due to their excessive cost, and the origins of the opioid crisis arguably traceable back to prescription drugs. But how did it get to the point that these issues ultimately overshadowed the greater good that the pharma industry has contributed during the last century to advance the health and well-being of consumers? How did we become so focused on marketing the medicine that we neglected to recognize there was a need to better market our industry?

In the era of COVID-19, the pharmaceutical industry is working day and night to simultaneously find treatments for the virus, a vaccine or even a cure, and the eyes of the world are laser-focused on it. There is a higher level of responsibility and expectation than ever before and the hope for our collective future now lies firmly in the hands of biopharma scientists, researchers and technicians. Tides are turning—reports suggest that consumers are now viewing the pharma industry with new regard, with 40% of the people who responded to a recent Harris poll looking to pharma with greater trust, perceived authenticity, and a more positive view of the industry than they did before the pandemic began.

Where pharma companies must do the heavy lifting in finding the holy grails of treatment and cure, healthcare marketers have a part to play, as well. We’re in a unique position to help foster and build upon the positive momentum that this industry is creating. Unlike our marketing colleagues whose clients are in the “want-based” categories of automotive, entertainment, or hospitality, we have the privilege and charge of working within a need-based category. “Health” is an industry that will never go out of style and won’t be as influenced by fluctuations in the economy as companies and brands in those other categories. Our job is to do everything in our power to create more connectivity, utility and value through our work as the industry’s loudest voice.

June 24, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0

I like ads that are clear and get to the point. Ubrelvy, a new migraine drug from Allergan, now part of AbbVie, does clarity well. In what I would call a near OTC ad, Ubrelvy intro only took 45 seconds to tell its story. It is positioned as “The Anytime Anywhere Medicine”. That is an OTC like slogan. 

I had to watch this television ad several times to make sure it is a prescription drug. Fortunately for Ubrelvy, the side effects and risks are few and that allows for the 45-second time frame compared to 60 seconds or longer for most DTC. Ubrelvy also has a new 30-second ad and to do that, they cut the section about discussing the drug with your health care provider or using telemedicine as an option. From a messaging perspective, the 30-second ad delivers the selling points just as well as the 45-second spot.

Creatively, Ubrelvy uses a print ad like headline approach with on-screen graphics of the selling messages over scenes of migraine sufferers shown at different times of the day. It is shot in black and white with some color in the supers. The key selling point is ease of use as it is one pill that can stop migraines within two hours. 

There is no consumer print yet which is interesting given this headline approach adapts well to print. The digital approach is clear and concise as the website mirrors television. The website has more information on price support and disease education. It also can connect the patient directly to a telemedicine provider and get a prescription. There is a fee for that service that goes to the telemedicine service.

The consumer media plan is basically 98% spent on television with the rest digital. The new 30-second spot extends the efficiency compared to most DTC ads in the category which are 60 seconds. Ubrelvy is the perfect broadcast brand as the fair balance section needed only eight seconds compared to 25-30 for most brands. Ubrelvy has focused on a memorable slogan and has an easy to understand benefit. Many DTC brands are more complex and require more detailed explanation. Ubrelvy has the benefit of a category well established in consumer expectations for a treatment; that expectation is quick relief in an easy to use form. Simple, clear, and concise was Ubrelvy’s goal and that was accomplished in this campaign.

Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

June 18, 2020 admin0

Rx EDGE® Media Network (part of LeveragePoint Media), a healthcare marketing company that supports pharma marketers in reaching consumers, announces the formation of a new company, InStep Health. InStep Health provides expanded services and product offerings to better support healthcare providers and consumers. With its recent acquisition of Brandperx, InStep Health has added to its portfolio to give product marketers access to 250,000 healthcare providers (HCPs) at the point of care (POC)—the providers’ offices. The increased capabilities will give pharma and OTC partners unprecedented direct-to-patient access that complements the company’s historically strong pharmaceutical marketing reputation in the retail pharmacy.

InStep Health will leverage past successes as it addresses consumerism across the continuum of care. “Now that consumers’ healthcare habits and expectations are changing, reaching patients is more critical than ever. Our intention at InStep Health is to do our part by engaging with them during and in between critical points of care, wherever that may be,” says Nathan Lucht, president and CEO of InStep Health. “No one does exactly what we do in the pharmacy, in the doctor’s office or digitally for patients, consumers and providers. By design, this is more than just point of care marketing.”

The company’s name expresses the distinct and diverse educational scope of the firm’s products and services they provide to consumers as they proceed along their personal healthcare paths. “The name change represents our future-facing, comprehensive platform by which our pharma and OTC clients can deliver education and wellness solutions to consumers when and where they need it most,” adds Lucht.

Heightened accessibility to the 30,000+ retail locations in the company’s network delivers an individual experience “iX” to healthcare consumers seeking solutions across thousands of integrated connection points.

InStep Health combines best-in-class data with the power of relationships to educate consumers at every point of their healthcare game plan, using a strategic blending of tangible and technical approaches. Their metric-driven marketing programs serve the health and wellness community by connecting brands, HCPs, and consumers via today’s ubiquitous digital access points.

About the Company
Since 2001, more than 70 pharmaceutical companies spanning 185 brands have leveraged the power of Rx EDGE® Media Network because they recognize the importance of the pharmacy as an education and communication channel. The acquisition of Brandperx added 80 OTC and CPG brands to their client base. Now as InStep Health, the company connects consumers and patients to brands through unique online and in-aisle resources and at the healthcare providers’ (HCPs) offices.

InStep Health
Kathleen Bonetti
EVP Marketing
(847) 879-6036

June 18, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0

It is interesting when you contrast the regulations for benefit claims for prescription drugs and OTC supplements. We all know the unproven health claims made for most supplement brands. They often have a tiny super on screen that says these claims have not been evaluated by FDA. Contrast that with prescription drugs which are regulated where every word is parsed over by regulators.

It is rare a prescription drug takes on the supplement industry directly. Vascepa is a drug that treats high triglycerides. Many OTC fish oils make claims about heart health. Amarin, the maker of Vascepa, offers a highly purified fish oil that did clinical studies on triglyceride reduction. In their latest Vascepa campaign, they are aggressively taking on the fish oil supplements for effectiveness.

The first campaign in 2018 did not compare Vascepa to competitive OTC supplements. The launch ad just introduced Vascepa and referenced that there are unapproved competing supplements. Vascepa must have seen data that showed consumers and payers needed more convincing that a prescription is needed instead of an OTC. Hence the latest Vascepa campaign talks the negative effects of some OTC fish oils that can raise bad cholesterol. It is a good strategy to show that OTC fish oil may actually be harmful to heart health if bad cholesterol increases.

Vascepa is contrasting its capsule by showing the purity of its drug as evidenced by the clear liquid vs. the yellowish fish oil. Amarin references its extensive R&D and clinical studies to contrast with fish oil supplements unapproved by FDA for triglyceride reduction. The patients are shown in a super modern looking clinic discussing Vascepa with their doctor. This is done to add emphasis to the cutting-edge science of Vascepa.

The regular price of Vascepa is not mentioned in the ads. This is a potential issue with consumers once they get a prescription and go to the drug store to fill it. Vascepa is expensive versus OTC alternatives. The retail cost is about $2.50 a pill versus $.05-.20 per pill for most OTC products. Insurers are likely reluctant to cover Vascepa fully given the hundreds of cheap OTC alternatives. The DTC ad probably helps Amarin get formulary coverage as insurers know patients and doctors will be requesting reimbursement. They do have a price support deal for new customers.

The latest DTC campaign is designed to basically say that when it comes to reducing triglycerides, go with a brand you can trust, one that has been researched fully, and had claims validated by FDA. This is a very interesting case study of how to take on OTC supplements which compete across many Rx categories.

Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

June 10, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0

One of the benefits of DTC advertising is making it easier to talk to the doctor about conditions patients may find embarrassing. Viagra was a pioneer in talking about erectile dysfunction (ED). This created an opportunity for many men to deal with what was often a condition not treated. Since ED could be indicative of blood vessel blockage, what was embarrassing could also create a discussion that saved a life.

Some other examples of conditions patients are often reluctant to discuss are toenail fungus, urinary incontinence, low testosterone, and depression. DTC has been very helpful in making those conditions easier for patients to raise with their health care provider.

One of the potentially hard to discuss diseases is treated by a drug from Endo Pharmaceuticals. The disease is called Peyronie’s Disease (PD) which is a bend in the penis when erect. Endo, which makes a treatment called Xiaflex, has been running a non-branded campaign since 2016 starting with print and digital. The firstTV campaign started in 2018 and was designed to introduce the idea of abnormal curvature. Using the “curved below the belt” line was a way to discuss the penis and erections without mentioning those terms in the ad. The ad told men that there are thousands like them who have abnormal curvature.

In the second 2018 campaign Endo got more bold. They explicitly mentioned erection curvature and from then on, added more facts that directly addressed the possible causes. The first-year campaign used fairly standard visuals of men lookingconcerned while the voice over addressed the condition. In recent executions, Endo became creative visually with representations of a bent penis. Using fruit and vegetables we see cucumbers, carrots, and bananas standing in for the penis.

Endo has a very good explanation about the causes of PD on its website. Xiaflex as a treatment option is explained as an injectable that can break up the plaque which forms from an injury to the area. In fact, we learn on the site there are millions of men who have this disease. The degree of curvature is used as an assessment tool on the site to determine whether treatment is needed.

Interestingly, we also see Xiaflex used for another common condition called Dupuytren’s Contracture which is a rigid bend in the finger joint. Endo has a separate campaign on air for this condition. This is clearly something patients may be less reluctant to discuss with physicians.

Critics of DTC Ads should recognize that educating patients about hard to discuss conditions is one of the unheralded benefits of DTC. I am sure discussing a bent penis is not something men would generally find easy. Having an educational campaign that says it is common and treatable makes many men more likely to discuss it with physicians. The fact that Endo has been running a PD TV campaign for over two years indicates they are seeing increased PD related urology visits. It is not easy to do a DTC campaign on sexually related conditions and Endo has done that well across multimedia platforms.

Bob Ehrlich,
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

June 3, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0
It is great to have a campaign that lasts. Too many advertisers change their ad executions too quickly. Consumers benefit by seeing a good campaign kept on air. It takes a long time to establish brand recall and keeping continuity of a campaign helps with brand and ad awareness.

Cosentyx, from Novartis, is one of my favorites as an enduring campaign for psoriasis. It is not the only one. Humira also has done a good job over the years. Cosentyx is particularly good at finding a memorable theme. They found a few words to headline their integrated media message. “See Me” and “Watch Me” are four words that convey the essence of their message over the last four years.

It is very easy for DTC brands to want to advertise all their benefits and over complicate the message. Consumers want the bottom-line benefit in language they can understand and remember. Cosentyx found the emotional cue so important in good advertising. In the initial ad back in 2016, Cosentyx showed real sufferers who felt they were judged by their disease and visible symptoms. They wanted people to see them and not their disease.

This “See Me” was therefore born as an enduring psoriasis campaign. Cyndi Lauper was added to the mix of real sufferers which was an interesting celebrity use. Usually a celebrity gets their own ad but, in this case, Cosentyx added Cyndi to the mix of regular folks.

Cosentyx has stuck with the “See Me” message in all media formats. It is successfully adopted in print, digital, and video. Cyndi Lauper is still integrated into the mix of real patients four years later. She is not the star of the ads, just a memorable celebrity who is one of many sufferers profiled. 

Cosentyx figured out that psoriasis makes sufferers feel more than physical problems. The condition creates an emotional separation as patients feel other people see the disease, not the person behind it. This is a brilliant insight that makes the ads so effective. I do not expect this idea will ever become old and Cosentyx can run with the “See Me” and “Watch Me” for years longer.

The latest psoriatic arthritis ads use “Watch Me” as the main tag. They show real patients who have had enduring relief and are saying watch me control this disease. The takeaway is that Cosentyx has been around long enough to be a trusted drug that works. I applaud Novartis and their agency Hill Holliday Health for creating a campaign that is enduring and unique.
Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.