How do I start doing pharmaceutical marketing

Marketing of pharmaceutical companies

Advertising and Law

The Heilmittelwerbegesetz (HWG) regulates the advertising of medicines in Germany. In the case of prescription drugs, manufacturers are only allowed to advertise specialists, including doctors and pharmacists. The pharmaceutical companies must state the active ingredients, side effects and warnings in their advertising.

On the other hand, a pharmaceutical manufacturer may advertise non-prescription drugs publicly, for example on advertising pillars or on television. Pain pills, ointments, or cough syrups - consumers can see remedies like these here.

Anyone who advertises their medication only needs to add the following note to the advertisement: "In the event of risks and side effects, ask your doctor or pharmacist."

The United States of America and New Zealand are the only countries that allow prescription drug advertising.

Expensive marketing campaigns

Even if direct advertising is prohibited in Germany, manufacturers are familiar with some marketing strategies to boost sales of their drugs and increase their awareness. A large part of their budget therefore often goes into marketing.

A popular strategy: modify the product. This could be a new dosage form, such as a gel instead of a tablet. The manufacturers are also constantly expanding the range of applications: Aspirin is not only intended to relieve headaches, for example, but also to increase well-being and alleviate the symptoms of flu.

In order to plan their campaigns, the pharmaceutical companies often work with PR agencies, doctors and self-help groups. PR agencies hold training courses and conferences for medical professionals to raise awareness of the drug.

They help to look for opinion leaders: These are scientists or doctors who are highly regarded in their field. These opinion leaders, who are paid by the drug companies, mention the drug in their lectures, conferences, and articles. In this way, you increase the awareness of experts and the general public.

In Germany, the research-based pharmaceutical companies also work with many different patient groups - in some cases they also finance them.

Some pharmaceutical companies also operate information websites on which they supposedly provide objective information about certain health topics. About the birth control pill, for example: This has a positive effect on the skin and blood values. On the right and left are beautiful, naked women. And at the bottom of the website you can find - what a coincidence - the name of the manufacturer and a link to their website.

Limits and "pre" ailments

Another strategy used by pharmaceutical companies: creating the need for a drug. The more patients there are, the more the drug manufacturer can sell.

And when does the demand increase? When the limit values ​​fall: Already today, almost half of Germans suffer from a cholesterol level that is too high - because the limit value has been lowered.

It is similar with prophylaxis: In the meantime, doctors treat pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, pre-dementia and pre-osteoporosis - although the supposed patients have no symptoms.

Made up diseases

Such phenomena are referred to as "disease mongering". Doctors make diagnoses in order to expand the pharmaceutical market. According to critics, the industry always follows the same pattern:

  • Normal processes of life are seen as a medical problem (for example male hair loss).
  • Rare symptoms are presented as a serious illness (for example, erectile dysfunction).
  • Slight complaints are exaggerated into harbingers of severe ailments (for example irritable bowel syndrome).

A common example of invented diseases is menopause. It used to be considered a normal process in a woman's life. Today the diagnosis is often: hormone deficiency. And bring on the medication!

Similarly, many middle-aged men are now said to suffer from a testosterone deficiency. Is there a need for treatment? In most cases probably not.

Sissi Syndrome - a Real Disease?

Sissi syndrome is an example of how closely pharmaceutical companies work with PR agencies. At the end of the 1990s, the disease appeared more and more in the media.

The syndrome describes a group of patients who are very active, but who are believed to be suffering from depression. It later emerged that a PR agency had invented the disease on behalf of a pharmaceutical company.

In order to give the disease a name, the agency was looking for someone to identify with: Empress Elisabeth ("Sissi"), who is said to have suffered from the syndrome.

Another example is sexual dysfunction in women. In August 2015, the drug "addyi", the so-called Viagra for women, was approved in the USA. The remedy causes side effects such as dizziness and fainting, it should actually serve as an antidepressant. The women’s sexual disorder has not been proven and the drug is superfluous, say critics.

Of course, not all pharmaceutical companies use such methods, and not every disease is made up. However, patients should be careful with controversial diagnoses. You should find out about the clinical picture - and if in doubt, consult another doctor to get a second opinion.