Direct marketing is usually reserved for new drugs that have been approved by the FDA over the past year and are used primarily for the treatment of chronic illness. This can be particularly problematic because many of the side effects have yet to be defined during that first year. Vioxx (rofecoxib) is a good example of a drug that was heavily marketed directly to the public and then had to be recalled due to high risks of heart attack and sudden death.
Explore This IssueMarch 2013
Other medications that have been widely directly marketed to patients are proton pump inhibitors and sleeping pills. In 2005, two drugs alone, Lunesta and Nexium, topped $432 million dollars in direct advertising to patients—costs that must be covered by their manufacturers. In 2005, then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called direct marketing the “fuel to America’s skyrocketing drug costs.”
Another type of direct marketing technique, one that does not use social media, involves distribution of free pharmaceutical samples dispensed through physicians’ offices. The regulatory requirements associated with tracking these medications are significant. If your facility is Joint Commission accredited, you must track all meds dispensed to patients, including lot numbers, in case there is a recall. These regulations have become so onerous that many offices no longer dispense samples, a change that may make direct marketing through social media more popular.
Some segments of industry have begun to use social media in an entirely different way—through their own intranets. An intranet is a private, online environment that provides a platform for improving communication and sharing knowledge across an organization. These networks are open only to members of the organization, and the platform can be built with the features of social media for information sharing.
However, such a network may involve a dramatic shift in an organization’s management style. Senior management must completely support this organizational shift, because the organization’s issues are hanging out there for all members to see. This setup can be very uncomfortable for anyone used to a hierarchical management structure, and unsettling for members of some cultures, because everyone connected through the intranet can contribute. In this environment, all comments are welcome, and the value of the content is determined by everyone in the organization.
The backbone of any organization is its people and its knowledgebase. Using social media in a closed intranet environment allows members to find out who knows whom and what, which can improve the organization’s function. A profile of the employees, including job descriptions and areas of expertise within the organization, is crucial for this function. This type of management is still in its infancy and should be attempted with caution, bearing in mind its many downsides.