This post discusses 7 projected trends that will reshape how pharma companies market and sell their products and services. These trends focus on shifts in socioeconomic factors that will have significant impact on the entire pharmaceutical industry. While traditional pharma marketing practices have relied on more aggressive tactics, these trends predict a diversification in the target pharma audience, requiring new strategies in pharma marketing.
1. An aging population lives longer with chronic diseases
All around the world, people are living much longer lives than past generations did. An increase in longevity also increases the burden of chronic or degenerative diseases, which affect an aging population. For example, the number of people with diabetes is growing, not only because of diet or adoption of a sedentary lifestyle, but also because people simply live longer. This creates an ongoing demand for patients to better manage their diseases and improve their quality of life.
Similarly, the average age of retirement is older than it once was. In fact, many countries have formally lifted or extended the retirement age. This means that a larger part of the working population will endure chronic diseases during employment, increasing the need for pharmaceutical interventions to control their conditions. An increase in the number of patients with chronic conditions will likely require pharma to reduce prices on various therapies and rely on volume sales.
2. Treatment protocols replace prescribing decisions
An increased influence of healthcare policy-makers puts a new emphasis on following treatment protocols, which often supersede the prescribing decisions made by individual physicians. On one hand, this consolidates pharma’s target audience, thereby requiring a more unified marketing approach. On the other hand, it is at odds with the practice of segmentation used to tailor the marketing message for different healthcare providers (HCPs). With this change, pharma will have to form stronger collaborations with policy-makers and payers and ensure that programs are in place for doctors to support patient compliance—which is at greater risk under a system that follows mandated treatment protocols.
3. Pay-for-performance determines the success of pharma products
Pay-for-performance looks at data to compare interventions and eliminate products that are more expensive or less effective. In other words, the pharmacoeconomic performance of different medications determines which therapies make it to market, which stay on the market, and their prices. This further discourages the costly development of pharma products that offer little improvement to current therapies.
While data produced by clinical trials are often different from real-world results—usually due to greater patient compliance in trials—a pay-for-performance system creates flexibility in pricing after a product enters the market. The use of electronic medical records, now widely adopted around the world, provides the outcomes data needed to compare different medical practices. Under this system, pharma marketers need to prove the value and efficacy of their products over comparable therapies on the market.
4. Once-fatal diseases are now manageable with therapeutic products
The healthcare landscape shifts constantly, and a big change to the pharma industry is the development of products and services that inspire patients to self-manage their conditions. Once-fatal diseases now have chronic status and are controllable through medications and clinical advances. Some prescription products now have over-the-counter status, and patients of the primary-care sector sometimes migrate to the self-medication sector. Some hospital treatments reach patients by way of home delivery services. These blurred boundaries in health care help empower patients and require the pharma industry to reevaluate marketing strategies to consider the self-care audience.
5. Demand for therapeutics in the developing world changes and diversifies
As the demand for medication in developing countries grows, it becomes much more varied. The healthcare systems in these countries have wildly different clinical characteristics, economic requirements, and even attitudes toward healthcare protections. Navigating the global pharma market is quite difficult to say the least, and the best place to start is with more traditional marketing strategies.
As the effectiveness of pharma sales reps declines in Europe and the US, in-person promotion in developing countries may still translate into significant sales. In China, for example, almost 75% of practicing doctors receive information on new treatments through pharmaceutical sales reps and conferences. Pharma marketers wishing to introduce their products in the developing world should create a plan that understands the needs of each country and population and tailor the marketing message accordingly.
6. The focus moves from treatment to prevention
A new paradigm in health care shifts the providers’ focus from treatment to prevention. If the future of health care will come to depend more on prescriptive prevention methods, what does that mean for the pharma industry? For one, pharma will need to develop more services that support health management, but this will require rebranding for many pharma companies and a push to market such services over drug development.
7. A tougher approval process will be necessary for innovative therapies
As agencies that regulate medical treatments increasingly avoid risk, approval of truly innovative medications is harder to achieve. This comes on the heels of industry critics who worry about the wasteful development of products that have little clinical impact over other approved therapies. The remedy is for pharma professionals to work with HCPs and for payers to determine what kind of medications meet the market need and to collaborate with other health agencies in deciding which compounds are most beneficial to push through the pipeline.