Strategic Pharmaceutical Marketing And Ethics [Interview][Transcript]


Guest: Hunter Leonard
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Hunter Leonard is an strategic marketer with over 25 years experience in senior sales and marketing including close to 20 years in the pharmaceutical and healthcare market. He is regularly sought out by media for his advice and opinion on both strategic marketing and ethics. Hunter has consulted in over 40 different industries, and when not running his business is spending time taking macro photography shots, playing guitar, or bushwalking with his wife, Nicole. Hunter’s consultancy – Blue Frog Marketing – has won 6 AMI Awards for Marketing Excellence through the peak marketing body – the Australian Marketing Institute.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, Blue Frog Marketing founder Hunter Leonard joins us today to share great insights on marketing in the pharmaceutical and healthcare fields. They are know for their Five Step System of marketing – the RAPID Marketing Model which is an acronym that stands for Research, Analyse, Plan, Implement and Detect. They provide both an outsourced marketing department service for larger businesses, strategic marketing projects for all clients and DIY marketing systems for SME businesses.


Health Professional Radio

Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. Today my guest is Hunter Leonard. Hunter’s got many years of experience as a strategic marketer particularly in the pharmaceutical space and has a keen interest in ethical marketing. Hunter, welcome to Health Professional Radio.

Hunter Leonard: Thanks Wayne, happy to be here.

W: Now Hunter Many of our listeners are clinicians and are on the clinical education pathway, there’s very little study or education goes in regarding marketing and how it works. What’s your insight into strategic marketing of pharmaceuticals?

H: Okay, so marketing with pharmaceuticals like pretty much any other product in any market place, it’s all about matching the need of a customer or consumer or a patient in this case with a product that will help them with a condition or a need or a want that they have. So marketing is really supposed to be a battle of the matching of those needs with the product that satisfies those needs. For the company that is to be done in a profitable way because the company needs to make a profit to continue its work in a particular area or research etc. For the doctor or the health professional and the patient, they want something alternative of course is effective with a minimum number of side effects, although of course most medicines no matter what they are have some kind of side effect through them so it’s a matter of finding the right balance of those two things in the management of a particular disease.

W: And do you think marketing in pharmaceuticals is done differently to general products?

H: Yeah, there’s definitely a difference. One of the main things is that if you’re dealing with a general consumer product, the marketer has probably every tools available to them or and more choice in the way that they would market a product. Normally in pharmaceuticals you have the government in every country at hand is usually involved in the modulation of the products that are available at pre-start. And also then the way they can be promote it depending on the country. So often products won’t be able to be promoted directly to the consumer, they’re promoted by the medical professional audience if you like, which is where sometimes the ethical problem can be with that particular market and has been a focus in many countries over the last probably decade or so.

W: And what do you see giving rise to the ethical dilemmas in pharmaceutical marketing?

H: Well, one of the key thing that’s been, this is from my view point of course personally is that because I have an interest ethics is that there is not all but some companies have ended up in situations where they seem to be inappropriately incentivizing the health professional to use their product, which places the health professional in a difficult situation because they’re not seeming to be using their own clinical judgment as opposed to what the last sales representative that called them and had said that they have a certain product.

W: Now this is made media coverage recently in Australia and in other countries, is it a case that this process of incentivizing prescribing doctors can go too far?

H: Totally. I think that very strongly can and thus occur. I mean in the form of there’s a lot of regulation in this now but still with the form of taking doctors to conferences or having doctors paid honoraria as part of an advisory group or even samples of products even to use can cross that line. That line of presenting a product and its clinical benefits, crossing into what could be seen as an … to prescribe that over another product that might have similar benefits if you like. And therefore the person that the most the dollars or budget could win that game which is not necessarily fair to the health professional or the patient themselves.

W: Now you notice there’s been anecdotal stories around I guess for years of the gift and incentive, and as you say conferences and dinners and so on and so forth. Is there a line and how do you determine where that line is?

H: Look, I think there’s a line. I think both parties have an objective and I think the line is the product’s got to be presented correctly and fairly. And there are within many countries, in Australia they’ve included good governing bodies and membership of ethical pharmaceutical companies who do to the line and make sure they’re presenting the products in a professional way. But not all companies are subscribed to members as well so you need to have that line very carefully drawn and I think the product should be presented fairly as to what it actually does. There’s have been many instances too when brands have come to market and then it’s found later that those products has significant side effects or otherwise and then they’ve have been removed from the market. And when the investigation has been gone on, it’s been found that the company has in some way over emphasized the benefits of the product in order to get it to the market. So I think that the head of those companies and as I said many are very ethical, there has to be that standard of let’s say due diligence and care for the end-user rather than just a profit side of it.

W: Yes. But I can understand why pharmaceutical company had a dilemma here, in most sales environments everything from commissions to incentives and rewards for both salesmen for sellers of products that they kind of blunt into the spectrum is just the profitability that the retailed sells you a particular brand because he makes profit on that brand.

H: Totally.

W: In a world where incentivizing prescribing doctors is a routine, how does a pharmaceutical company draw a line about what they’re going to do and not going to do without in fact just going broke and leaving the field?

H: Sure. Well I think it’s probably comes back to mole the scientist and the marketer and that the true success of a pharmaceutical company or a natural health company used to find uniqueness. And there is uniqueness out there when you get into situations where you got many tools in any market then the ability to differentiate moves away from the scientific benefit of it to the patient into more of a commercial arrangements if you like. So if you haven’t got something that’s uniquely offering the patient some benefit then you’re left with little to succeed. So probably comes back to the fact that company has to invest in looking for that uniqueness and if they haven’t got uniqueness there, then maybe it has to be in being more ethical or being a better corporate citizen that allows them to become more successful than the similar competition. There’s many, many ways that good smart strategic marketers and others would indeed, can find uniqueness and it doesn’t have to be over incentivizing or over promising on a product. The difference in pharmaceutical as we all know is that you’re not selling a stove that gets taken home and will still do the same thin. You’re selling something that someone is going to take for an illness or a disease, so you definitely don’t want to be crossing the line in regards to that.

W: Hunter Leonard, a strategic marketer in pharmaceuticals and a man with a keen interest in ethics in marketing. Today we’ve uncovered some I guess interesting dilemmas for pharmaceutical companies and to a lesser extent poor clinicians who are on the receiving end, particularly if they are prescribing. There doesn’t appear to be an easy answer here Hunter.

H: No, but I think if you can go to the book of ethics (chuckles), the best place and the best answer comes if you feel like it’s gonna cross the line, then you’ve got to be a bit smarter and look for another alternative. That’s my opinion anyway.

W: And we thank you for that opinion. It’s been a pleasure having you with us this morning. You’ve been listening to Hunter Leonard and we’ve been discussing ethics in pharmaceutical marketing, Hunter is a strategic marketer with an interest in ethics. There’s a transcript of this interview available on our website it’s a You can also listen to the audio archive on SoundCloud or YouTube. This is Health Professional Radio, my name is Wayne Bucklar.

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