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Posts Tagged ‘pharmaceuticals’

Speaking to Pharma Marketers

October 16th, 2010

On Thursday of this week I had a great opportunity. I was invited by Jack Barrette of WEGO Health to be on a panel presenting Health Activists’ perspectives to pharmaceutical marketers. The conference was called the Multi-Channel Pharma Marketing Event, and participants were hearing about how to market in a new world of informed medical consumers, health activists, and social media. My fellow panelist was Allison Blass, of Lemonade Life, a diabetes blogger and activist.

So here’s what I think about Migraine and pharmaceutical companies, what I went into this conference with. First of all, pharma companies want to sell their drugs, because that’s what they do, and how they make their profits. So marketers are looking for new and better ways to… that’s right, market their products. Do their companies make too much profit? Are drugs too expensive? Well it is very expensive to develop new products, and takes years and years. I understand this. The fact that insurance companies are run on a profit motive is a harder one for me to take – their motive will never make them want to give us all we need to treat our disease, and the fact that we have uninsured people, and no universal, single-payer system, so some people can’t afford meds at all, and others are at the mercy of insurance companies that ration meds, those are the real crimes. Don’t even get me started!

So how much should pharma companies profit? I don’t know. I don’t know whether they make more profit than say, banks and financial companies. I do know they make something we need, and our system runs on profit. And here’s where the Migraine angle comes in – they don’t make enough of what we need, the basic research hasn’t been done yet, they haven’t developed the drugs, we haven’t had a real new innovation since the triptans, and we need better products to prevent and treat Migraines. Desperately! You with me so far?  What we really need is a cure, as Allison said, so ultimately the pharma companies should be in the business of putting themselves out of business. Because it’s the right thing to do.

In the meantime pharma companies want to get involved in social media, because that’s where not only consumers but opinion leaders are. I asked a number of you on Facebook to tell me what I should say to them, and there was a fair degree of skepticism about their motives. It seemed to me the people I met were decent, committed people, who are selling things they believe in.  As one told me, he’d rather be selling drugs that help people then a lot of other things.

Anyway, Jack asked us to speak on what the rules of the road are, and what we would do if we had 10 million dollars to spend in our health communities. Allison and I expressed things in different ways but came up with a number of very similar ideas. I said, Rules of the Road: you have the power to educate, use it wisely and well.  Don’t try to sell something like Excedrin Migraine as if it were a one-size fits all solution, a cure, and fail to disclose that 1. it doesn’t abort your Migraine, only covers up the pain; 2. it won’t kill the pain for many of us; and 3. it carries a substantial risk of Medication Overuse (rebound) Headache if used more than a couple of days in a row, or a couple of days a week. It was easy to pick on Excedrin Migraine because so many of us Migraineurs love to hate their ads!

As for the Imaginary 10 million, how about spending most of it to get the basic research about this disease done? Support Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and Migraine Research Foundation. Then if they want to spend some money on line supporting our community, sponsor patient education, Migraine diaries, information about a whole life approach to managing Migraine (an approach that pharmaceuticals are only one part of).  Let some more of us who are committed to helping people with this disease become professionals at it by supporting our efforts with paid positions. Life costs money (as Allison said) and people with the passion to help should be able to make a living at it. And if you support and sponsor what our community needs, and are known as good guys, we will be more eager for your products when they are finally developed, and more likely to continue using your products over time, if they do their job.

The audience was great, asked terrific questions, and it was a great experience. Kudos to Jack who had me really get present again to what I am doing and why. As you may know if you read my sparse postings lately, I have been working a demanding day job as an attorney and mediator, and haven’t found much time to be on line lately. Well, I’m lit up and raring to go, so expect to hear some more from me.

- Megan

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