Saturday, January 10, 2009



Pharmacology and marketing are very interesting subjects. In pharma marketing, pharmacology is the bedrock. Pharmacology is the science of drug action. Pharmacology studies drug behavior in the body. Marketing is the science of 'product action' - marketing is the study of product behavior in the market.

BOTH ARE VERY INTERESTING TOPICS OF STUDY, BECAUSE NEW KNOWLEDGE IS CONSTANTLY CREATED. THE BASICS NEVER CHANGE, HOWEVER, KNOWLEDGE FLUXES ARE VERY DYNAMIC. For example in 2008, the American Marketing Association revisited the definition of marketing and has redefined it:

Marketing is the activities, set of institutions, and processes (science) of creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large. Now this is a new dimension - marketing is not seen merely as an organizational process and CRM process, as in the earlier definition. It goes beyond and emphasizes the exchange process (hence, consumption), which is the core of marketing.

Medical pharmacology is the science of using drugs or medicinal substances to deliver health value to the patient and the marketing dimension in pharmacology is managing drug pharmacology to meet the commercial needs along with patient value.

It is important that the pharmacology of a drug matches the needs of the marketer: for commercial success

For instance, aspirin is a NSAID (pain killer), however, the pharma marketer finds the pharmacology of aspirin as a blood thinning agent (ie., helps prevent clots inside blood vessels) very interesting to market. The activities of the marketer reflects the market needs, wants and desires. Thus, pharmacology is a beautiful science, however, the marketing dimension of pharmacology is the application of pharmacoprofile for commercial benefits and patient value.

Particularly in Ayurvedic pharmacology, marketing faces a unique challenge. The pharmacological profile of Ayurvedic drugs is that they are very versatile. For eg., Shuddhaguggulu has benefits on the skeletal system, however, it also helps lower blood cholesterol levels. While a pure pharmacologist will find every dimension of shuddhaguggulu very fascinating, the marketer who uses pharmacology, is most likely to position shuddaguggulu as a blood lipid lowering agent - since the market for such drugs is large and there could be other better pharmacological Ayurvedic interventions to manage diseases of the skeletal system.
Pharmacology has two main branches:

PHARMACODYNAMICS - study of what the drug does to the body. Pharmacodynamics deals with mechanism of action of the drug and dose - response relationship. In pharmacodynamics, the scientist studies the exact mode of action like the receptors or target sites for drug action. The scientist also studies the dose administered and the response obtained.

The most common pharmacodynamic aspect is the drug-receptor model. Pharmacologically it is proven that most drugs combines with unique receptors (specific three dimensional sites normally on the exterior surface of the cell membrane) to elicit drug activity. It is like a lock and key, the key is the drug and the lock is the receptor. Only the right key can open the lock!

Some drugs are agonists - they bind with the receptor to produce stimulation. For instance, beta receptors in the airways are stimulated by drugs like salbutamol to produce airway dilation, and this helps provide relief in case of asthmatics and other cough with airway constriction.

Some drugs are antagonists - they bind with the receptors to block them. They prevent other stimulant chemicals from binding with the receptor. Ranitidine is a H2 receptor blocker. It prevents histamine from binding with the H2 receptor. Thus, ranitidine helps reduce acid production in the stomach.

Some drugs are partial agonists - they block the receptor, but also mildly stimulate the receptor.

In marketing too with some doctors, MRs will find themselves - agonists! The doctors can be stimulated to produce prescriptions in their favor. With some doctors, MRs will be partial agonists - the doctors are mildly stimulated to produce prescriptions in favor of their brands!! Some MRs are antagonists to certain doctors, prescription flow is not there, but they block physician time!!

PHARMACOKINETICS - study of what the body does to the drug. In pharmacokinetic studies, the ADME of drugs is studied (ADME stands for absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion).

The pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic factors are very vital to the pharma marketer. For instance, the thumb-rule is that hydrophilic drugs (the drugs that are water soluble) stay in the body for a longer time, they are metabolized slowly as compared to lipophilic drugs (fat soluble). Hence, the frequency of dosing is reduced for hydrophilic drugs. Propranolol is lipophilic and atenolol is hydrophilic - both these are antihypertensives. Since, atenolol is hydrophilic, it has a once-a-day dosing schedule, hence, patient compliance is better. Atenolol has greater marketability or patient-value features.

In case of drugs that have to act on the brain, they have to cross a band of cells called BLOOD BRAIN BARRIER. Such drugs have to be lipophilic or they cannot cross the blood brain barrier. May be that is why, propranolol is useful in the prophylaxis (or prevention) of migraine.

As a thumb-rule liphophilic drugs are metabolized significantly in the liver, and need to be given twice or thrice a day.

These pharmacological considerations matter for the product positioning aspects to a pharma marketer.

Disruptions in the market

Business plans and business models are always at the mercy of disruptive forces in the market. For eg., insulin market is dogged by the limitation that it has to be injected. Biocon has launched a project to develop oral insulin. They are using a peptide technology from a US company to help coat the insulin molecule so that it is not degraded by the enzymes in the stomach and intestines, the peptide coating protects the insulin molecule until it reaches the liver (after absorption from the small intestines). And then the insulin (a peptide hormone that helps lower blood sugar) is released in to the bloodstream. The marketing of such a product will revolutionize the insulin market.

Today, treatment of an important wide spread endocrinological disease - THYROID DISEASE - is not a 'difficult to treat disease' because thyroxine hormone can be administered as oral tablets. Diabetes mellitus is painful to manage mainly because insulin has to be injected. The day oral insulin is available, the misery associated with disease management will decrease dramatically. People will start popping insulin capsules as easily as thyroxine tablets.

Another force gaining steam in the Indian society, which is not recognized by mainstream media is the DEVELOPMENT OF YOGA-PRANAYAMA-AYURVEDA market. The fillip to this market has come through a science based promotion of Yoga by Yogrishi Ramdev Baba. It is not mapped or documented by the English mainstream media or market research agencies as it ought to be. And one day, it will sock the established business models like a bolt from the blue.

So pharmacological aspects and marketing are very intimately linked in the marketing of pharmaceuticals.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down and read all other blogposts, they are interesting.

1 comment:

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