This morning I was reading about the approval of Mylan’s generic version of the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept – yet another reminder of the patent cliff Pharma is currently going through. One way that pharmaceutical companies try to stem the loss of revenue brought on by patent expiry is through the release of a “new and improved” version. In this case Eisai is introducing an extended release version which will clearly benefit both patients and carers. Generally though the loss of revenue, even when there is a successor product in the wings, is considerable.

This means that as products mature and go off patent their marketing budgets decrease significantly and marketing focus moves onto newer products. In these circumstances digital can play a major role. The costs related to maintaining a digital resource can be considerably lower than a standard offline marketing presence. This does not mean that digital is necessarily cheap – it is well worth investing a reasonable budget in setting up a solid digital presence for mature products. However once this is done – and done properly – the expense is minimal.

Unfortunately what often happens is that the budget to start with is minimal meaning that only a basic – and often pointless – digital presence can be developed. This provides little value to the customer and will not generate the desired ROI – and in turn will have minimal impact. Digital is like so many things in life – if you build a solid foundation you can build on the structure and it remains standing and provides value, even for off-patent products.

So how could the mature brand teams use digital?  What does value look like?  This obviously is different depending on the product, the customer etc but looking at general trends and data some top level recommendations can be made.  For HealthCare Providers (HCPs) once a product moves into the mature category it loses sales force representation and it can become harder to obtain information about the product itself.  Ensuring that product information is available for HCPs online is a first step – but in order to provide value (and generate return visits, ROI, etc) there is limited point in developing a standalone website for each product.  HCPs want all the information in one single location.

 Having a website or a digital centre with information about all of the companies products, both mature and new products, is a good step in the right direction.  A key element to consider when setting these resources up however is that the information needs to be quick and easy to find and the resource needs to have a good search function.  Many pharmaceutical websites have very poor functionality and search options – HCPs visit them once to find the product information and get frustrated trawling through the mix of corporate information, press information etc before they get to the product information they need.

 The problem for a pharma company in setting up a resource such as this is that it is expensive to do well – but also requires co-ordination across brand and therapeutic silos.  And as to including mature products in the resource this is further complicated by the treatment of mature products once they come off patent – relegated and forgotten about.

 Included in digital resources and digital budgets however mature products can still provide value – they just need to be given a chance.

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