Brand websites drive new patients to scripts--and old patients to refills

How's your brand's website? Better keep a close eye on it. That site could be your best shot at persuading new patients to start a drug--and current patients to keep taking it.

According to Internet analytics provider comScore, patients who visit a drug brand's website are more likely to end up taking that drug than those who don't. Using a benchmark system based on survey data from 163 pharma studies, comScore determined that site visits drove a 9.4-point boost in new patient starts compared with a control group.

For patients already taking a drug, the impact was even greater. Refill rates for patients who dropped by a brand site were 14.7 points higher than for patients who didn't, according to comScore's annual online pharma marketing report.

"The importance of pharmaceutical branded websites continues to be high," comScore Health Solutions VP John Mangano said in a statement. "Our research shows that regardless of how condition sufferers get to the site, that visit has a significant influence in those patients seeking treatment."

Nathan Stewart

So what makes good product sites so influential? It all goes back to content and experience, which go hand in hand, Nathan Stewart, a senior analyst at InTouch Solutions, told FiercePharmaMarketing. Human beings like to have conversations, he said, and an effective product site will include content that spurs dialogue with consumers. Without that content--as can be the case with bare-bones sites and other forms of DTC marketing--"then we're just shouting at them."

"Having that kind of platform where you can put stuff out there--infographics, videos or just pages of copy--that allow people to engage and learn and build that affinity, that's going to pay off, whether it's early on or later in their journey," he said.

Of course, content can't go very far if marketers don't keep their target audiences in mind. If they tailor the site experience to that audience, a brand website can offer "an experience to that customer that print or television just doesn't offer," Stewart said.

If their efforts don't succeed, they can find out why. Another advantage for Internet marketers is the ability to track how often patients visit a site and how they behave once they get there. And once marketers know how people are responding, they can tweak the site accordingly. "If you put up a billboard and it's terrible, it's up there," Stewart said. "You put up a website and it's not quite working, you can change it--and you'd better."

- read the release

Special Report: Top 10 DTC Pharma Advertisers - H1 2013

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