Self-Pay Medicine: A Strategy or Fall Back?
More concerned about quality-of-life issues than insurers, many consumers will gladly pay out-of-pocket for some products if they relieve chronic conditions that inconvenience or disable them. The success of products such as Lasik vision correction surgery and non-sedating antihistamines and the growing market for alternative medicine suggest that consumers are open to, and in some cases, eager for a wide array of products shunned by traditional care insurers. But marketing directly to consumers is not enough--physicians, insurers, and even hospitals have to be brought into the loop..
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Empowered consumers are playing a more proactive role in almost all treatment decisions. For consumer-driven and lifestyle drugs, a fast-growing portion of pharma's portfolio, marketers still focus on physician detailing but must resist the temptation to rely only on physicians to interpret consumers' needs. Consumers have their own approach to evaluating the risks and rewards of a lifestyle-oriented drug. The fact that it outperforms placebo in clinical trials matters little: they expect it to be significantly better, and without unpleasant side effects. Companies must weigh these expectations early in the development process. Adjusting the paradigm where the physician is king is a major challenge. The perception that traditional detailing efforts generate the dollars, while consumer marketing only spends them, remains hard to change.
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