Pharma industry's digital maturity has accelerated with the adoption of digital engagement channels
Express Pharma|July 2021
Shashin Bodawala, Director – Business Excellence, Boehringer Ingelheim India, updates Viveka Roychowdhury on the evolution of digital pharma marketing strategies. He also explains the need for new regulations as the current code of conduct was not designed for a world of data, software, and digital, as well as the importance of data-driven insights and robust analytics to derive actionable outcomes from such initiatives
Viveka Roychowdhury

Pharma companies have been criticised in the past for allowing marketing budgets to be bigger than R&D spend. While this may not be strictly true, has the shift to digital initiatives cut down on marketing spends? Where have the savings come from?

Up until 2020, pharma had fallen behind other industries for their investments in digital marketing. The pandemic served as a wake-up call, leading to a change in outlook. Business leaders have come to understand the potential of digital by looking at digital investments as a ‘growth-driver’ rather than a ‘cost-saver.’ This, in turn, led to a rise in personalisation in terms of content creation and delivery along with new capabilities.

While this personalisation at scale required massive funds, our investments to realise these objectives have not seen a dip. Our momentum continues to stay strong, only our channels of delivery have seen a change. Digital is no longer viewed as an enabler, but an essential and integral part of the business model. This disruption has proven that only companies which are able to pivot to innovative ways of working, will emerge successful.

What are the regulations covering such digital marketing initiatives in India? Does the Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) hold for these initiatives too and are these sufficient? Any global benchmarks on this?

The code of conduct set by the UCPMP meant for ethical pharma marketing was not designed for a world of data, software, and digital. It was designed for a world of trade with limited focus on one stakeholder – the doctor. Already under pressure due to pandemic-induced changes, this code is inadequate to face critical challenges that new technologies pose. Critical aspects such as digital privacy and data protection is practised by pharma companies out of volition rather (than) it being a mandate. In some cases, platforms providers define terms of use. Simply put, UCPMP does not spell out much on digital marketing initiatives.

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