Should physician executives stoop to popularizing medicine?

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Author: Arthur Lazarus
Date: May-June 2013
From: Physician Executive(Vol. 39, Issue 3)
Publisher: American College of Physician Executives
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,820 words

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Discover how physician leaders can--and should--support marketing activities.

A cartoon shows two scientists reviewing laboratory data and appearing very smug. They are content with their results and themselves. The caption reads: "One thing I'll say for us--we never stooped to popularizing science."

For the past lo years, I've taken an opposite approach. I have assumed a niche role in the pharmaceutical industry, reviewing research data and disease-related information intended for promotion to doctors and patients. I review the material for medical accuracy, completeness and realism, ensuring that all communications are scientifically credible and clinically relevant.

It is important that I "get it right" because the information provided to physicians and patients affects the quality of care. The pharmaceutical industry also faces unprecedented challenges--not only increased government scrutiny on marketing activities--but also increased transparency demanded in clinical trials and publications.

In a one month span during the summer of 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) levied criminal charges and fines of more than $5 billion against two major pharmaceutical companies for illegal drug marketing practices, including the "off-label" promotion of drugs for unapproved uses.

In order to resolve such DOJ investigations for health care fraud, drug companies are often required to enter into corporate integrity agreements (CIA) with the Office of Inspector General. A comprehensive CIA typically lasts five years and includes strict compliance requirements to ensure the company acts in accordance with all laws and proactively addresses any issues identified by the investigation.

I have worked under two such agreements, and the added considerations have increased my job responsibilities. Although my experience in marketing stems mainly from my employment in the pharmaceutical industry, I believe the issues are also relevant for physicians who work for companies engaged in marketing activities in other health care sectors.

Broad marketing

Pharmaceutical companies spend in excess of $50 billion (1) a year to market their products, as shown in Table 1. Approximately 10 percent of that money is spent on consumers in the United States, with television advertising taking up the bulk of expenditures. (2) John Wanamaker, the father of modern retailing, said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." I'd like to think that if Wanamaker had confined his efforts to pharmaceutical promotion, business savvy physicians with a keen interest in marketing would have solved his dilemma.

Table 1 Medical Marketing Channels

Journal ads

Professional sales aids/video/mailers

Patient/consumer educational materials

DTC TV/radio/print

Speakers programs

Reprints and reprint carriers

Commercial exhibit halls/materials

Social media

Press releases

Table 1 Imprecise Medical Terms Instead Use "large or small" actual size or amount "well-designed" provide specifics about the study design "extensively studied" provide specifics about the database "rapid" specify change/unit time "trend" provide specifics about the outcome "highly significant" give p value and confidence interval "potent" give the effect size

Physician leaders who specialize in medical marketing--a rather broad term applied not only to pharmaceutical promotion but also many other forms of medical...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Lazarus, Arthur. "Should physician executives stoop to popularizing medicine?" Physician Executive, vol. 39, no. 3, May-June 2013, pp. 38+. Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.

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