Pharma has a chance to rewrite specialty care marketing playbook in 2020: expert

San Francisco skyline
At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference last week in San Francisco, PwC's Greg Rotz outlined the challenges and opportunities for pharma marketers in specialty care. (Sean Pavone)

Pharma marketers are constantly reevaluating what brand messaging needs to look like in a field that’s rapidly changing, both scientifically and technologically. But there’s still room for some serious innovation as we enter a new decade—particularly in the specialty care arena, one expert says.

Today’s specialty categories “are competitive in a way that is truly remarkable, if you think about where we were 10 years ago,” Greg Rotz, U.S. pharmaceuticals and life sciences advisory leader at PwC, said in an interview during last week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Back then, pharma thought of specialty care as a “safe haven” from highly competitive primary care markets that were gearing up to welcome generics, he said.

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“If we were having this conversation in 2009 (or) 2010 instead of 2020, it would have been, ‘How do we push our portfolio into these more white-space specialty care diseases?'” Rotz said. “Fast forward a decade later, those categories are all intensely competitive. How many checkpoint inhibitors are there to treat bladder cancer?” he asked. (The answer is five.)

But the shift into specialty has also opened up a big opportunity for commercial execs, he said. Going forward, they should be thinking about how to reinvent pharma marketing—and specialty care marketing in particular—to adapt to such a cutthroat environment.

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There’s a chance to “think about a new playbook there that really leverages what we can do in personalization, that really leverages what we can do in real-world evidence and really figuring out which patient populations truly benefit the most” from certain therapies, he said, adding that companies can also differentiate their products through digital and next-level patient support.

So while the fierce rivalry in specialty care may bring along its fair share of challenges, it also comes with “a great opportunity for commercial executives to be thinking about, ‘what is pharma marketing for the 2020s?’” he said.

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