Look out, pharma marketers. Obamacare will change your lives

Who would argue that Big Pharma marketing isn't changing? Anyone? Well, get ready for even more, Adweek says. Combine Obamacare with technology, social media, Big Data and payer demands, and you have a prescription for pharma sales that's as different from the old days of DTC advertising on network TV as "Father Knows Best" is from "Breaking Bad."

We've been watching social media and patient relationships gain importance over the past few years. Foresighted companies are reaching out to communicate with patients rather than advertise at them. But Adweek says Obamacare will accelerate those changes--partly because primary-care doctors won't have the time to spend, and drugmakers do.

With millions of new patients buying insurance, primary-care docs will have less time than ever. So, pharma companies can step in with patient education and medication reminders; Adweek cites Merck's ($MRK) program MerckEngage, which helps patients track their health, diet, and exercise--and sends doctors regular updates on those patients.

And then there's Obamacare's push to keep patients with chronic health problems on the straight and narrow, treatment-wise, to avoid expensive hospitalizations. Enter the assortment of Big Pharma's adherence efforts. As Adweek points out, AstraZeneca ($AZN) recently rolled out an app targeted at patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients enter info about their symptoms and the like, and share with doctors; docs can respond by adjusting meds or otherwise intervening.

Finally, there's the new cooperation between payers and accountable care organizations, which will be monitoring drugs' effectiveness and cost, and potentially influencing prescription habits. Drugmakers that can educate patients, persuade them to change their lifestyles, and keep them taking their drugs should have better outcomes to show for it--and a better chance of becoming go-to products. Sanofi ($SNY) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) have been experimenting with such things in their diabetes programs, helping patients check and track their blood sugar levels, learn about diet and exercise, and so on--and prodding them to take their drugs, burn calories and pass up the cupcakes.

As Adweek notes, drug companies spent an estimated $11 billion on marketing last year, with about $2.7 billion of that on advertising. That spending could well shift away from advertising and toward social media, app development and services. TV networks could suffer. But patients--and drugmakers--could end up better off.

- read the Adweek story

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