DigiPharm Europe 2010 Pt 6

So here’s the penultimate part of this week-long series. Today I am focusing on the morning session of Day 2 of DigiPharm 2010 and the concluding blog post tomorrow will cover the afternoon session. I will not cover every presentation from Day 2, just the ones that had impact with the audience.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 7

One-way Code
First up on day 2 was Heather Simmonds from the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), who is responsible for administering The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) Code of Practice. Simmonds stressed how important it is to follow the code of practice, even if may seem out of date (2008 was the last update). She quips ‘”Heather said it was OK” does not trump the ABPI code of practice!’.

Her advice is that ‘if you put your head above parapet, consider how you will defend what you’re doing if you have to – if a complaint is made‘. She also says that even if embarking on an educational campaign, Pharma should treat everything as promotional unless you can clearly show that it isn’t and that many EU States consider every piece of information from Pharma to be classed as advertising. I’ve often experienced this from a medical education standpoint when providing educational materials for a launch product – the materials were treated and scrutinized exactly the same way as a promotional detail aid and a journal advertisement.

With reference to the relevance of codes of practice to digital and social media, Simmonds states that in the EU, self-regulated Pharma codes of practice are media-agnostic. The ABPI Code has planned updates in November, but will be limited in scope (requirement to provide unsubscribe link in emails). She says that they know Pharma wants to use social media, but are not clear about what that use would be. The ABPI plan to first issue ‘guidance’ on social media before introducing it into the Code.

Simmonds covers the traumatic journey of the proposed EU Directive amending legislation about Pharma providing information to the general public about prescription medicines. She says that the aim is to avoid changes allowing the direct to consumer advertising that is common practice in the US. the drugs industry want to be able to provide information directly to patients, but don’t want to advertise to them.

With regards to the reach of the ABPI, if a UK company posts promotional information on the internet outside of the UK, it still falls under the remit of the code. The main questions in the UK from the PMCPA are:

  • Why do you think that social media is not covered in the 2008 code (even though it is not explicitly mentioned)?
  • What do Pharma actually want to do?
  • What will be the impact of the EU directive on providing information to patients?

Discussions on Twitter surround the fact that social media is a global phenomenon and that regional regulatory bodies need to consider this if they are to grow and adapt alongside these channels. They should possibly look at other globally-regulated industries to see how they achieve their goals in this space. There are call for a public forum to discuss these issues and the redesign of medicine regulations globally.

Comments are on
A change in topic to engaging with patients sees Gary Monk of Janssen on the stage: from innovation to integration – ‘engaging with connected patients and HCPs’. Gary talks us through a successful patient social media project using a YouTube video on ADHD that was part of an integrated approach. Monk mentions that there were practical challenges for internal agreement that included engagement and education. He says he used a YouTube video to sell the project internally (I couldn’t find it from searching YouTube, unless it’s this…?). Janssen seeded the campaign to targeted groups (parents and teachers), and the level of engagement was good.

A key point made by Monk was that the success of the programme rested not only on seeding the content well, but finding an agreement internally regarding the comment policy. In fact, it was evident that allowing moderated comments yielded more effective results than that of Pharma marketing messages. He commented that the public discussion in the comments area balanced out naturally, even the difficult discussions. Examples of comments that were not published included those that were off topic, with strong language or turn of phrase or if they mentioned specific products. With regards to the process, moderation took longer in the beginning, but became easier.

eMarketing excellence
Rene Neubach of Pfizer on how to successfully launch online programmes and engage with HCPs. He says that it is crucial for Pharma eMarketing teams to have internal guidelines for individual channels and that these guidelines should be working and evolving documents. The devil is in details: concentrate on what we know we can do well: delivering information to customers (I read this to say that obviously this isn’t the whole story, deliver info first, engage when ready). He mentioned that a website bounce rate benchmark is normal if 30-35% and that Pharma needs to get digital basics better, such as usability, language and relevance; as well as KPIs on the likes of bounce rate. He warns that Pharma can’t use literal translation of materials for multi-country initiatives: transliteration needs to understand the intent/topic and therefore this should be carefully considered (As Global, ask affiliates to manage the translation for their company).

Neubach presents Pfizer Engage, a system that allows for continued engagement with HCPs post-conference. Essentially, they use iPads during the conference and sign HCPs up to receive the enduring content. In this way, they build on the time, effort and expense of the conference, maximising the return. Pfizer measure success using an engagement index, and the programme works as it is scientific, unbranded and personalized to each HCP, although they are learning and improving constantly.

He goes on to present experience with Back in play, a patient campaign educating around the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis that uses football (soccer) as a ‘hook’ to drive the messaging. Neubach stresses that the concept was tested with the target audience first, and it has become a great success (2 million players in a very short time).

Finally Neubach talks about integrating the emarketing team (like a centre of excellence), so that all the knowledge is collected in one global place – this avoids the problem if a brand manager leaves, carrying all the local knowledge with him. A challenge with that, as pointed out by John Mack, is that this may encourage ‘edumbness‘ in the local teams, but Neubach states that the central eMarketing team at Pfizer act like an internal agency and are very quick to respond to requests.

That cover’s today, tune in tomorrow when I start with John Mack’s Hawaiian-shirtless presentation on the process leading up to the imminent FDA guidance.

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About me

Hi, my name is Paul Jacobs and I write the Medigital blog, as well as being the Director, Digital Strategy at Sonic Boom, a digital and social agency. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about the digital domain in pharma and medical communications/education.
Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are my very own and do not necessarily reflect those my employer, family or pets. Twitter: @PJ_Medigital
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