The Push and Pull of Pharma Marketing and What Physicians Can Do About it.


This is the fourth post in our series on Pharma Marketing. Also read our previous posts here, here and here.

We at MedCrunch think that knowledge about pharma marketing is essential for every practicing physician. As physicians you are exposed to marketing messages all the time. Without the proper understanding of pharma marketing you might not be able to “use” the pharmaceutical industry or their products and messages to your and your patients’ advantage. Here are some pearls we think you should be aware of:

Pharma marketing can be classified into two different categories:

  1. Push marketing: targeting physicians. Urging them to “push” certain drugs to their patients.
  2. Pull marketing: targeting patients. Urging them to “pull” or request certain drugs from their physicians.

The most important approach to marketing taken by many pharmaceutical companies has been push-oriented. All those busy pharma reps swirling around hospital hallways are trying to persuade you to prescribe their drugs to your patients.

Nevertheless, the pull-approach has become more and more prevalent these days. Pharma companies are increasingly targeting the patients themselves. This can be a tricky thing at times since many countries prohibit patient-centered marketing-messages. One way to circumvent this barrier for the industry is to get access to self-help groups and to support them in turn. Other ways would be paid editorial content in online outlets such as WebMD,  Netdoktor or Diagnosia.

The pull-marketing approach is a potentially dangerous field for pharmaceutical companies as has been demonstrated in the not so distant past. In 1905 the American Medical Association (AMA) urged its members not to prescribe medications that were directly advertised to patients. Doctors complied with this recommendation, which put a lot of influence and power into AMA’s and its physicians’ hands. You can read more about this interesting topic here. Very often, patients accept marketing messages as they are. They believe what is being said. It is our responsibility as physicians to make sure that patients receive correct and useful information. The internet makes it easier to point out unethical pull-marketing messages, share them and provide guidance for our patients.

So in essence: we as physicians are the target of pharma’s push marketing approach. At the same time we are also responsible to point out dubious pull-marketing-messages. Do you want to share any personal experience? Let’s hear it in the comments section!

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Franz is an internist with a specialization in cardiology. He co-founded the e-learning company 123sonography and MedCrunch. Franz is Associate Professor for internal medicine at the Medical University of Vienna. In 2001 he did his MPH at Johns Hopkins University as a Fulbright scholar. Follow Franz at @franzwiesbauer.



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