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Health Care

Pharma Business Model Is Broken, Say Industry Execs

Most companies plan to fix problem by increasing marketing spending, redeploying resources

Published: Friday, March 30, 2012 - 12:42

(Booz & Co.: New York) -- Confirming pessimism about the state of the pharmaceutical industry, a recent survey of U.S.- and European Union-based pharmaceutical sales and marketing executives reveals that 68 percent believe “the current business model is broken.” The survey, conducted jointly by Booz & Co. and National Analysts Worldwide, was designed to take the temperature of the industry on current challenges and help analysts understand how industry leaders plan to overcome those challenges in the next several years. It builds on surveys Booz & Co. has conducted of EU pharma executives during the past several years.

“Those of us who work with pharma companies to develop and implement commercialization strategies know very well the challenges of maximizing asset value in this new environment, where both key customers and customer expectations are being redefined,” observes Susan McDonald, CEO of National Analysts Worldwide and leader of the firm’s health care practice. “We’re not surprised to hear people acknowledge that they can’t count on doing ‘business as usual,’ and that they’re looking for new ways to gain traction.”

The greatest challenges identified by survey respondents are the growing health-care system price and budget pressures and an increasing need to demonstrate cost-effectiveness and outcomes. In response to these challenges, more than half of the respondents expect to invest more heavily in marketing to key provider accounts and payers. Among the strategies seen as most important are new approaches to pricing, new service models, and new collaborations with payers.

Those convinced that the model is broken are reacting by making significant changes in how they spend marketing dollars and time. They are shifting their spending dramatically from community physicians to new stakeholders. In particular, they are disproportionately investing in key accounts, payers, and hospital stakeholders. By contrast, those who are not convinced the model is broken are making few adjustments to their spending.

“The pharmaceutical industry is the eye of a hurricane of change,” says Danielle Rollmann, a partner in Booz & Co.’s global health practice. “The sales and marketing model is being forced to move to one that is much more complex. And this is happening in an uncertain market with incredible pressure to reduce budgets. The only clear path out of the storm is for companies to identify and focus on building the few critical capabilities they will need to succeed.”

The survey provides insights into the capabilities and strategies that will be most important moving forward, including:
• Organizing sales and marketing activities around diverse stakeholders, especially hospitals and insurers
• Taking a more creative approach to customer collaboration, including new pricing strategies, innovative service models, and novel partnerships
• Doing a more effective job of demonstrating value through outcomes
• Continuing to emphasize direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, in recognition that patients hold the other end of the purse strings
• More effectively using innovative digital media channels

“Virtually everything is changing in the model and the market,” says Rolf Fricker, a Munich-based partner at Booz & Co. “In response, most respondents say they plan to spend more on all their target marketing activities. Yet this is not aligned with what pharma is doing and needs to do at a company level. The companies that focus, prioritize, and follow a coherent strategy will be the winners.” 

As noted above, the survey also signals plans to do more direct-to-consumer marketing. “This is one of many areas where we are helping pharmaceutical companies think differently,” says David Levy, a partner at Booz & Co. serving clients in the life sciences. “The power base in the industry is fundamentally shifting toward insurance companies, integrated providers, and patients. Influencing a sale is getting increasingly complicated and requires more innovative approaches to reach multiple audiences, so expect to see more innovative digital and social media in this space.”

The survey, which was completed in late fall 2011, is based on a sample of 156 sales and marketing leaders, most with global responsibilities, at pharmaceutical companies in the United States and the European Union. Survey participants were primarily vice presidents and directors. For a link to the key findings of the survey, click here.


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