Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ePharma Day One Guest Recap

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Editor's note: Thanks to John Mack (a.k.a. "Pharmaguy"), editor & publisher of the Pharma Marketing Blog, for providing his take on day one of the main program.

Thoughts on ePharma Summit 2011 Day 1

Pharmaguy’s Perspective

Before attending today’s session, I had a list of “11.5 Things I'd Like to Learn at ePharma Summit.” First on my list was: Will Thomas Abrams, Head of FDA's DDMAC, actually have something new to say? Abrams may not have said anything “new” about the development of social media guidelines, but if you listened, he painted a picture of an FDA that is struggling to ensure that drug promotions comply with regulations.

It is obvious that the DDMAC’s 65 employees cannot begin to review the 76,000 promotional pieces it receives for review from pharma companies. Nor can they keep an eye on every DTC ad on TV, in print, and on the Internet.

Abrams mentioned two ways by which DDMAC is dealing with this overload:

(1) By taking a “risk-based” approach to enforcement, and

(2) “Voluntary compliance.”

By “risk,” I suppose Abrams means risk to consumers. So DDMAC implements a priority review and looks at first at promotions that minimize risk information and/or overstate efficacy. DDMAC’s BadAd campaign helps regulators prioritize their list of questionable promotions. If a physician cites a drug ad through the BadAd program, then it is likely – according to FDA’s way of thinking – that the ad deserves priority review.

“Voluntary compliance” sounds like an oxymoron to me and I’ll have to review my notes in more detail to fully understand what Abrams was getting at here. But it sounds like Abrams HOPES the drug industry will comply voluntarily and save the FDA some work. Abrams did say that drug promotion quality has improved. I’m not sure if that is due to DDMAC’s regulatory actions or to “voluntary compliance.”

I was also interested in the session focused on partnering with patient advocates and “consumer opinion leaders” (COLs). I met Alicia Staley (@stales), a three-time cancer survivor, the night before at the cocktail reception. She was on the panel with ePatient Dave DeBronkart (@epatientdave) who talked a bit about pharma paying patient advocates/COLs to manage patient interactions online. I’ve written about this in Pharma Marketing News and I wondered – via a tweet – if Dave was being paid to speak at the conference. He invited me to the Klick Pharma booth to chat. We decided to followup with a discussion of the issues on my Pharma Marketing Talk BlogTalkRadio show sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, he gave me an autographed copy of his book “Laugh, Sing and Eat Like a Pig.” We also posed together for a photo. I’m sure it’s on the Internet somewhere!

While the patient advocate panel was in session, I was having a Twitter discussion with Manny Hernandez, who is another well-respected patient advocate. He is putting me in touch with someone within a pharma company whose job is patient advocacy or something close. I look forward to inviting that person and Manny to participate in my upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk show.

Kevin Nalty, who claims to be a YouTube celebrity of sorts, teamed up with Michelle Bandler of Google to talk about “Online Video for Pharma Marketers.” I was disappointed that the session did not include any video! Although they sounded like they were making a pitch to a pharma client, Nalty and Bandler did provide lots of useful tips for how pharma marketers can get the most out of YouTube.

Paul Ivans of Evolution Road is the conference chair. His opening presentation was a very nice nostalgic trip back to the first ePharma conference. He reviewed how much technology has changed in that short period of time. His presentation included a video clip produced by Nalty at the last minute. This was Nalty’s own humorous take on the past ten years from the pharmaceutical perspective. He used some new fanged animated slide presentation software with a soundtrack laid on top. It was OK for a last minute job, but I got the impression that creating great video takes a lot of time and talent. Nalty certainly has the latter. Too bad he didn’t have the former.

Bob Harrell, Shire Pharmaceuticals, gave the best presentation of the day, in my humble opinion. It was focused on the future and he showed some interesting medical technologies that might be on the horizon. I just hope that more than 10% of the population will be able to afford such technology!

Thomas Goetz of Wired magazine made a keynote presentation entitled “The Future of Health Is In The Hands Of The Consumer.” I have doubts about that. But Goetz focused on demonstrating how patient information should be more easy to understand. He called it “Information With Feeling” or IWF for short. Wasn’t “IWF’ the old socialist International Workers’ Federation? Essentially, Goetz showed us how a magazine art director would design drug labels and medical test results. Lots of colors, etc. For example, when presenting blood glucose results, the numbers should be converted to a color-coded scale. The red zone was labeled “Could Indicate Diabetes,” which – to me – conveyed an element of fear, which Goetz otherwise suggested should be avoided. I was left feeling that if we implemented these sorts of things, we would really be dumbing down the information given to patients. The best future is when the patient can have a nice long and informative discussion about the numbers with his or her physician.

Anyway, that’s it for my perspective on the second day of the 10th ePharma Summit. I’ve got to get this sent to the conference organizers before the WiFi dies here at the NY Sheraton!

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