Fast-Forward on a Time Machine – Exploring Pharma Marketing 2037

Fast-Forward on a Time Machine – Exploring Pharma Marketing 2037

Written By: Vivek Hattangadi

Come, let us board the time machine which takes us ahead of our times. And lo! We landed in Mumbai on 12th July 2037.

Let us see what is happening here.

Shantanu, a brilliant product of a top B-school and a senior manager in a leading FMCG company from India is having his 33rd birthday bash at home. Suddenly he collapses. His wife Neeta along with friends, rush him to Asclepius Hospital. It was a diabetic coma caused by a traditional medicine which inadvertently led to hypoglycemia. Shantanu fortunately recovers as he was in the hands of a good endocrinologist, Dr. N.G.L.B. Reddy.

But what happens next surprises the travelers in the time machine!

Dr. Reddy calls on Shabbir Sheikh, the pharma knowledge worker (as medical representatives are known in 2037) of Canopus Biopharmaceuticals, a leading Indian MNC, and asks him to rush to Asclepius Hospital. Pharma Knowledge workers like Shabbir now primarily deal with generating, interpreting, and using knowledge as a fundamental aspect of their job. Their responsibilities involve problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, creativity, and the application of expertise and information to perform their work effectively.

Dr. Reddy explains Shantanu’s case to Shabbir.  

Shabbir realizes the gravity of the case and without waiting a single moment gets the genetic profiling done through a buccal smear at the Canopus Genome Research Institute. No sooner than the report arrives, Shabbir assists Dr. Reddy in analyzing the data and even suggests personalized medicine!

Dr. Reddy discusses the genetic profiling report with Shantanu and Neeta for the future course of action. Of the three options, they all agree on personalized medicine for Shantanu. But nevertheless, Dr. Reddy cautions Neeta, “Neeta, all efforts to make Shantanu lead a normal life would be futile if he does not follow the diet and exercise regimen as our counsellor would suggest. This is the fact. Even today, the first line treatment for diabetes is diet and exercise. It is for you to get it enforced”.  

“Done Dr. Reddy.” smiles Neeta.

Both Neeta and Shantanu return home satisfied. Both Dr. Reddy and Shabbir are happy to see the patient outcome.

My God, the time machine travellers were pleasantly surprised to see what a different role the medical representative (or the Pharma Knowledge Worker – PKW) has in 2037! A super-specialist is actually calling a medical representative / PKW to visit him.  

What is Personalized or Precision Medicine?

Personalized medicine in 2033 has emerged as human-caring practice of medicine. Genetic profiling guides the doctor’s decisions to manage, treat, or prevent disease. Personalized medicine dumps the “one-size-fits-all” approach to therapy and turns it into an individualized approach. The principle is: “We all are similar, of course, but we are also different”. 

[To give a crude analogy, Bata shoe size 7 is too tight for me whereas size 8 is large. I need size 7½ and now Bata produces size 7½ for people like me.

Personalized medicine is the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient. And this is done through the patients genetic profiling.

This enhances the doctor’s ability to prescribe treatments which are safe and effective for certain patient populations.

And this is how Dr. Reddy treats the young Shantanu, who has a full active life ahead of him. With the help of Shabbir, Shantanus’ genetic profile was done and it helped Dr. Reddy to select the proper therapy Shantanu using the proper dose or regimen.

This is the marketing model I envisage in Bangladesh and India in the coming years.

 This is what the patient centered approach is, a natural outgrowth of Human-to- Human Marketing.  

Role for the Medical Representatives (PKW) for 2037 and beyond

The role of a medical representative (Now onwards we shall call him PKW or Pharma Knowledge Worker) will not be the same as today. He/she will be a ‘Knowledge Worker’. The role will evolve continuously and the PKW has to adapt to the changing landscape of healthcare. It will extend beyond promoting a product and asking for prescriptions. The PKW will be a true knowledge worker who will be able to add value in every visit. Doctors like Dr. N.G.L.B. Reddy will invite the PKW’s and not shoo them away.

The PKW will need to acquire a comprehensive understanding of personalized medicine, including its underlying concepts, technologies, and applications. This knowledge will enable them to effectively communicate with doctors, patients and caregivers. He can uninhibitedly discuss the benefits and limitations of personalized treatment options.

The PKW’s role will also involve providing information and updating doctors and patients about the pharmaceutical products and services that align with personalized medicine approaches.

Personalized medicine relies heavily on analyzing and interpreting vast amounts of patient data, including genetic information, biomarkers, and clinical records. PKW’s may assist doctors in understanding and utilizing these data effectively to tailor treatments and make informed decisions- the way Shabbir did.

Since personalized medicine is a rapidly evolving field, with advancements in technologies and treatment approaches occurring frequently the PKW will need to engage in continuous learning and stay updated on the latest developments in personalized medicine. This knowledge will enable the PKW to provide accurate and up-to-date information to doctors.  

The role of the L&D training managers in the pharma industry will also evolve. It will go beyond providing induction training.

The role of a PKW in the era of personalized medicine will involve deep knowledge of the field, collaboration with doctors, patients and caregivers, and a focus on providing tailored solutions to meet individual patient needs. To reiterate, their role will extend beyond promoting products to actively supporting the integration of personalized medicine into clinical practice.

Role for the Brand Manager for 2037 and beyond

For the brand managers to appreciate this futuristic marketing model, first let us dwell a bit on H2H Marketing. ‘Human-to-Human Marketing’ is an approach that emphasizes creating meaningful connections and building authentic relationships amongst a brand, a pharmaco, a doctor, a patient and the care-giver at home. And this is exactly what happened in this case study of 2037. H2H recognizes that behind every business transaction, there are real people with emotions, desires, and needs.

Instead of solely focusing on making the doctors prescribe your brand, Human-to-Human Marketing aims to engage doctors and patients on a personal level and thus establish trust. Trust is the foundation of Human-to-Human Marketing. And did you observe the mutual trust amongst Shantanu, Dr. Reddy and Shabbir.   

Human-to-Human Marketing is based on the understanding that people are more likely to respond positively to marketing efforts when they feel a genuine connection and perceive value in the interactions. It involves techniques that prioritize empathy, personalization, and delivering a human touch in marketing communications.

Some key aspects of Human-to-Human Marketing would include:

a) Trust – Trust is the foundation of Human-to-Human Marketing. Brands and pharmacos should strive to build trust by consistently delivering on promises, and being transparent with padocumers. Look for superior PDX or Padocumer Experience.

b) Authenticity – Human-to-Human Marketing emphasizes genuine, transparent communication that resonates with doctors and patients at a personal level. It involves being real, relatable, and honest in your brand messaging.

c) Emotional Appeal – This recognizes the emotional aspects to evoke positive emotions in padocumers. It focuses on understanding and addressing padocumers’ emotional needs rather than just their rational considerations.

d) Personalization – Human-to-Human Marketing tailors messages and experiences to individual padocumers, making them feel seen and understood. It utilizes data and insights to create not just relevant and personalized interactions but even personalized medicines.

e) Patient-Doctor Experience (PDX) – Providing exceptional PDX is crucial in Human-to-Human Marketing. It involves delivering personalized, seamless interactions across various touchpoints, particularly at every stage of the patient journey, to create a positive and lasting impression

Having said this, would it be correct to say that ‘patient-centered approach in marketing’ is a natural outgrowth of ‘Human to Human Marketing?’

Of course, yes! A “patient-centered approach in marketing” is a natural outgrowth of “Human-to-Human Marketing.” Both concepts emphasize the importance of understanding and connecting with individuals on a personal level.

Human-to-Human Marketing is a philosophy that recognizes that behind every transaction, there are real people with emotions. It focuses on building genuine relationships, fostering trust, and delivering personalized experiences to padocumers. Human-to-Human Marketing aims to create human connection, rather than treating individuals as faceless padocumers.

A patient-centered approach in marketing specifically applies this philosophy to the healthcare industry. It acknowledges that patients are not just passive recipients of medicines and healthcare services but active participants in their own health journeys. Patient-centered marketing recognizes the importance of understanding patients’ unique needs, preferences, and experiences to provide personalized care and communication. Recall the dictum of National Health Services (UK): “No decision about me, without me”.

What does this mean? It means it is a shared decision making that ensures that patients are supported to make decisions that are right for them. It is a collaborative process through which a doctor supports a patient to reach a decision about their treatment. It involves choosing tests and treatments based both on evidence and on the patient’s individual preferences, beliefs and values. It also makes sure the patient understands the risks, benefits, and possible consequences of different options through discussion and information sharing. See how Dr. Reddy, Shantanu, Neeta and Shabbir together decided the line of treatment for Shantanu.  

To conclude, reimagine the persona of a patient of 2033 of 2043. He/she will be a young patient of around 32 having some lifestyle disease like hypertension, CVS or diabetes. To manage such conditions there will be dominance of biopharmaceutical products and biosimilars. Biopharmaceuticals and biosimilars being large-molecule products would mean they would essentially be in the parenteral form (although newer drug delivery systems are being developed). Moreover, the trend would be toward precision or personalized medicine. Hence the patient-centered approach would be a necessity rather than an option. Those who are prepared or preparing for the new marketing model will flourish and grow. The rest are in danger of being dinosaured.  

Now board the time machine again and re-reimagine 2053 and 2063 when Gen Z of today will be in positions of eminence. They would be telling their students and mentees to reimagine the Pharma Marketing Model for 2103 or 2133.


Vivek Hattangadi

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