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September 7, 2011 » History of Pharmaceutical Marketing: Evolution and Increased Importance in the Rare and Orphan Disease Space

The Pharma industry has come a long way since 754 A.D. when Arabian pharmacists opened the first documented drugstore, which was likely filled with herbs, healing plants, and other mysterious remedies.

The sale of miracle cures, many of which had low success rates, was common in history. Before scientific advances, Pharma products and their sales were more about showmanship than actual success. If you projected your voice, dressed well, and made the most compelling claims, sales would soar.

Marketing of non-prescription medication, including pain relievers and allergy medicine, has been alive and well since medicine’s inception; however, it wasn’t until 1997 when the marketing of modern-day prescription medications to patients entered the equation. Prior to then, it was believed that the mass marketing of medicine was fruitless, since it was doctors who chose which medicines to prescribe; patients had virtually no say in their treatment. With that belief, marketing to medical professionals seemed to be the smartest route.

Marketing to healthcare professionals included detailing in doctor’s offices and hospitals, and placing ads in professional journals; an important part of these efforts was marketing to medical students.

Things changed drastically with the advent of the Internet and the introduction of e-marketing. Healthcare professionals now had a vast reservoir of information at their fingertips. But so did patients, and with this knowledge began an era of patient empowerment, with patients now taking a more active role in their healthcare.

The other day, while cruising the net, I came across this funny video about the Internet-spurred growth of pharmaceutical marketing, created by well-known pharmaceutical digital marketer Kevin Nalty.

The empowerment of patients was critical for marketing, especially for those suffering from rare diseases. Some diseases are so rare that many physicians are unaware they exist, let alone know how to accurately diagnose and treat them. So these patients have taken to the Web to find information about their disease and how to diagnose and treat it. They’ve also found the Web useful in connecting with others with similar experiences via social media. Before the internet, educating patients with a rare disease like NAGS deficiency would have been very difficult. And it simply would not have made sense to market to physicians who most likely would never encounter a patient with such a rare disease. But the Internet has brought people closer together than they’ve ever been, and opened doors that didn’t exist just several years ago.

And opening doors is just what Compass is here for. Compass knows that when patients understand their diagnosis, disease state, and treatments options, they are much more likely to engage in their own care. Compass focuses on empowering patients and their caregivers with rare diseases. By understanding their unique experience, pharma companies, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders in the rare disease community can provide greater support, which can lead to better outcomes. Whether through social media, mentor programs, conferences, and disease state awareness campaigns, or a myriad of other ways of engaging the community, Compass is determined to make a difference. And seeing how far pharmaceutical marketing and patient empowerment has come in just the last 15 years, being able to reach and positively impact the life of every patient with a rare disease doesn’t seem as unrealistic as it once did. It is now a very real possibility, and Compass is doing everything in our power to make it a reality.


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Patricia Corby says:
Sep 09, 2011

Great job ! Gives a person a lot to think about ……….good work !

sorabh says:
Jun 24, 2012

precise information

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