PharmExec Blog

Did Digital Marketers Forget That Docs Write the Scripts?

Consumer drug marketing online is way smarter and more sophisticated than healthcare professional (HCP) efforts, with dollars continuing to favor sales forces over digital executions, according to L2’s Digital IQ index.

Of the 70 brands assessed in the report, well over half were classified as “challenged” or “feeble” with respect to online and mobile prowess. The lone “genius” of the group was Johnson & Johnson’s Concerta, which provides HCPs with access to Concerta’s formulary status with top insurers, customized patient education materials, and an ADHD diagnostic tool, among other things.

In contrast with L2’s online direct-to-consumer index released last year – which bestowed genius or gifted status on 19 of 51 brands – this year’s report found that just seven brands were above average, in terms of usefulness for physicians. After Concerta, Bristol-Myers Squibb/Otsuka’s Abilify had the highest digital IQ, followed by AstraZeneca’s Symbicort, Merck’s Januvia, AZ’s Seroquel XR, and Novo Nordisk’s Victoza and Novolog, in decending order. The rest of the 63 brands were rated average or worse. The most bipolar brand was Bayer’s Yaz, which earned a “gifted” IQ score of 131 for consumer efforts in last year’s report, but received a doltish IQ rating of nine for HCP efforts. Anything less than 70 is considered feeble by the report’s measure.

According to the methodology, functionality and content on a brand’s HCP-facing website accounted for 30% of the assessment, followed by digital marketing (i.e. off-site brand presence, visibility on search engines, and innovative presentation) at 30%, social media (presence on Sermo or Medscape) at 20%, and mobile usage (including app creation, mobile web compatibility, iPad integration, and utilization of Epocrates) at 20%.

Authors of the report wondered why most brands aren’t purchasing HCP-targeted search terms, investing in mobile, engaging in email marketing, or investing in display advertising. Only a fifth of the brands assessed provide online sampling. Additionally, 75% of the brands assessed did not advertise on highly-trafficked physician portal sites, despite four out of five doctors visiting those sites, and spending nearly half of their online time there, the report said. That’s compared to brand websites for HCPs, which reach 50% of physicians, but only keep them there for two percent of their online time. Just 28% of brand sites for HCPs offer e-detailing.

For brands that do advertise on physician portals like WebMD’s Medscape, nine of which use sponsored microsites within the Medscape network, marketers miss a key opportunity by not providing a link to the brand’s own HCP site, the report said. After all, physicians that use professional social networks write, on average, 24 more prescriptions per week than those who don’t, the report said, citing a Manhattan Research study from January 2009.

With respect to search engine marketing, Google and DTC sites are the largest traffic drivers to HCP sites. However, only half of the brands assessed returned professional site results – in paid or organic results – when searching for a drug by brand name. Eisai and J&J’s Aciphex was the only brand that returned paid professional ads when searching for both the drug name and the condition, according to the report. Other search standouts include AZ’s Symbicort, the only brand with a professional site ranked at the top of organic search results when searching by brand name. Novo’s Victoza was the only brand to purchasing professional and consumer ads against the phrase “type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

In the mobile realm, perhaps the most surprising data point was that 90% of the brands assessed had no brand-specific mobile presence whatsoever. Just seven brands have mobile sites, although companies have sponsored apps ranging from diagnostic and dosage tools to patient assessment and education. Unbranded HCP apps miss an opportunity to promote individual brands, the report said.

To download the full report, for free, click here. L2′s digital IQ index on DTC efforts from last year can be found here.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 5, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Agree with the article but the title is at best misleading. NOT only physicians write prescriptions, prescribers do. There are 200,000 PAs and NPs who can prescribe in all 50 states. If we were really tracked the guess is we are writing over 500 million prescription annually.
    Please do not keep us invisible as it hurts accuracy and hurts the products the industry is trying to market.
    Dave Mittman, PA

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