Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science, Why I March

John (PharmaGuy) Mack
speaking at the March for Science in Doylestown, PA.
My name is John Mack and I live in Newtown.

On Twitter I am known as PharmaGuy – that’s P-H-A-R-M-A, plus “Guy!” I PUBLISH a newsletter for the pharmaceutical industry. And I have a graduate degree in Biochemistry.

Every day we benefit from medicines and vaccines created by scientists who work in pharmaceutical and government-funded research laboratories.

We need to discover new drugs faster and defend efforts that make those drugs cheaper and more accessible to everyone.

In doing so, however, we also need to defend the scientific methods the drug industry uses to prove that medicines WORK.

A big part of that process is the Food and Drug Administration, which ensures that drugs are proven safe and effective through rigorous clinical trials.

Today the Food and Drug Administration and other science-based agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency are under attack by the current administration,

WHICH intends to increase SPENDING on the military and decrease SPENDING on these and other science-based agencies that help improve our lives.

We should not have to sacrifice science for security.

DEFUNDING science impacts us on a local level whether the issue is the quality of our air and water, fracking, opioid drug abuse, or the heroin epidemic.

We need leaders who believe in data and scientific evidence to help solve these problems.

More scientists must get involved in politics today just as Benjamin Franklin did during the American Revolutionary War.

There is a war being fought today – a war against science.

We must defend science in THIS war.

Marching together is a good first step.

But we must follow up by electing pro-science leaders and ensure that they rely on evidence, not beliefs, when making decisions about our health, our environment, and our general well-being.

Thank you for listening and may Science be with you!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Speedy Drug Approval Versus Safe Drugs: Can We Have Both?

More user fees paid to the FDA by the drug industry and the push for less rigorous scientific proof in clinical trials may lead to faster drug approvals, but also more deaths due to side effects. Where’s the balance between speed and safety?

For the last few years I have been tracking data from the FDA regarding how much money it collects from the drug industry in prescription drug user fees to see those payments influence more than just how quickly the FDA is able to approve new drugs for marketing.

One stark correlation I noted with the rise in user fees was the sharp drop in the number of warning letters the FDA sends out. I guess this is actually a negative correlation. Interesting...


But the fees seem to be working. In 1992 it took the FDA 19 months on average to approve new drug applications. Today, when user fees account for about 70% of FDA's budget for the review of new drug applications, it takes the FDA only 10 months to approve a drug for marketing (see here).

But what about drug safety, which is the other responsibility of the FDA?

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Making Sense of DTC Ad Spending

About this time every year, I get data from Kantar Media and Nielsen regarding how much money the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising.

The data I’m most interested in are the total spend for the year and what portion of that is digital versus TV. But it can be difficult to ferret out that information from the two different sources, which often report different numbers.

Let’s look at the total spend first.

According to Nielsen numbers reported in the March 3 2017 issue of MM&M online, spending on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads rose 9% to $5.6 billion in 2016 (read Direct-to-Consumer #Pharma Drug Ad Spending at an All-Time High).

In the March 29 2017 issue of MM&M, a Nielsen chart showed the 2016 DTC spend to be $5.8 billion (see Will It Be Downhill from Here for DTC Advertising?).

A difference of $200 million is peanuts compared to the whole, but it’s just slightly more than what Pfizer spent promoting Xeljanz to consumers in 2016.

Now these Nielsen numbers apply only to what’s called “measured media,” which includes TV, magazines, newspapers, radio, outdoor, and Internet banner ads. It does NOT include websites, web videos, web audio, sponsored links, social media, mobile applications, and emails. It also does not include search engine marketing, which has been estimated to be 40% of the total pharma digital spend (consumer and physician).

Kantar Media generally reports slightly higher numbers. For 2016, Kantar Media estimates that total DTC spending was about $6.4 billion. But this number includes $515 million of “digital.”

I’m not exactly sure what Kantar considers “digital” versus what Nielsen does. I think it’s pretty obvious, however, that the pharma industry cannot be spending $515 million on banner ads alone. Perhaps Kantar’s number includes search engine marketing targeted to consumers. In any case, if that number is subtracted from the total, you get $5.9 billion, which is close to what Nielsen reported.

$5.8 billion, $5.9 billion, $6.4 billion. Whatever! The number is very high. It’s more important to look at trends and what portion of the total is allocated to different channels.

Monday, April 03, 2017

A Drug By Any Other Name

The naming of drugs has been described both as a science and an art, which is also true about marketing in general.

No matter what side of the brain is involved, there must be a reason why drug names are often ridiculed as being "absurd." The issue even made it to Saturday Night Live skit in which Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer sued Merck for naming dozens of drugs after members of her family ("Pharma Gets Drug Names from Octavia Spencer’s Phone Contact List").

Perhaps my reporting of that skit was the reason why my long-time friend, Jonathan Richman, founder and director of Dose Marketing in Cincinnati, posted a study he did of prescription drug names on LinkedIn. His post – titled “The Absurdity of Pharma Drug Names” – railed against the many drug names that are difficult to spell and pronounce. He questioned the validity of the “urban legend” that drugs are named this was to make them more memorable.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

PharmaGuy To Compete for Recognition at Cannes Lion Health Festival

April 1, 2017: PharmaGuy is excited to announce that the organizers of the 2017 Cannes Lion Health Festival have chosen him as one of the finalists to compete for this year’s Old Pharma Lions Award!

Judges are seeking out the greatest generation of older, awe-inspiring pharma marketing communications pundits. This year’s competitors will put their snarkiness to the test on a brief set by UNIPHARM, the world’s leading organization working to revive the reputation of the endangered pharmaceutical industry (for more on that, read "Pharma Industry Reputation Hits 7-Year Low According to Harris Poll").

Participants will be challenged to write a series of blog posts or Tweets that ridicule the notion that pharma creative ad awards -- including the Old Pharma Lions Award -- have any value!

The talented winners will be invited to attend Lions Health in Cannes, where they will receive their awards during the official awards show in front of thousands of experts from across the pharma communications world.

Entry Criteria
  • You must be 50 years old or over!
  • You must have pissed outside the tent of elite advertising agencies for at least 15 years!
  • Your application needs to be written in English – we will, however, accept emojis
  • Competition entrants must work as individuals, never ever as a team!
  • Students are not allowed to enter the competition, even if you are over 50!
See last year's award winner below.

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