Healthcare Brand Summit: Healthcare is moving from prescriptive to preventive and predictive

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing
Published : December 09, 2013
A peek into what Day Two of the event held.

Day Two of afaqs!'s Healthcare Brand Summit was all about brand transitions -- from prescription (Rx) to over-the-counter (OTC), from niche to mass, and from prescriptive healthcare to preventive healthcare.

In the first session, presentations were made by Yogesh Kumar, director, marketing, Eli Lilly; Devendra Shinde, head, OTC division, Dr. Reddy's Labs; and Brijesh Kapil, vice-president, Ranbaxy Global Consumer Healthcare.

Eli Lilly's Kumar began his talk by drawing attention to the existing clutter and consequent fierce competition within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry. Through the course of his presentation, he mentioned Humalog (analog injection for diabetes) and Forteo (analog injection for osteoporosis), two brands that successfully reached out to patients through educative sessions and workshops. In the context of the former, he said, "Social stigma and patients' reluctance to initiate insulin treatment were a couple of obstacles that we addressed." In general, prevailing aversion to needles among people was another addressable hurdle.

As far as tips regarding how healthcare companies should approach the end consumer are concerned, the two main takeaways from Kumar's presentation were, and we quote, "Education is critical; try to create differentiation for your product by educating the consumer about the disease," and "Don't be creepy; when you try to create brand pull, respect the privacy of the patient and be subtle about the fact that you're trying to make a sale."

In the context of transitioning from prescription to OTC, Shinde of Dr. Reddy's Labs (an ex-Mahindra hand) highlighted some basic differences between the pharmaceutical space and the consumer space. The pharmaceutical industry is fragmented (by design) and complicated but the consumer space is all about consolidation and simplifying life. When healthcare brands market prescription drugs, the target group (TG) comprises doctors and other healthcare professionals. But when the same brand makes becomes an OTC product, the TG changes to patients and their caregivers. The brand needs to alter its messaging techniques and communication channels accordingly.

"One challenge faced by brands looking to go OTC is: Will the doctor drop me like a hot potato?'" Shinde said. Which is why, when going the consumer way, it is important for healthcare brands to continue to fetch the support of the physician in order to get early OTC sales. Another tip was, "If prescriptions for a brand are dropping but yet, sales continue to increase, it means consumers are self-medicating and buying the drug without a prescription. This is an indication that the brand is ripe to go OTC." He cited the example of Nise Gel (a pain relief gel that went OTC in 2011) while talking about how brands sometimes grow more after becoming OTC products.

Ranbaxy's Kapil spoke about the journey of Volini (a pain relief brand that competes with Moov, Iodex and to an extent, Zandu Balm and Amrutanjan) from prescription to OTC. It was launched in 1992 as a prescription drug and switched to OTC in 2007 (this was when the brand's first TVC was launched).

Saurabh Uboweja

Rashmi Thosar

Om Manchanda

Ragini Mohanty

Kunal Bhatia

"We consumerised the brand in 2007," he said about the transition. Celebrity endorsers Sonali Bendre and Trisha Krishnan (for the Southern markets) were brought on board in 2012; this was a big part of the overall shift to OTC. Kapil also spoke about Revital, a health supplement endorsed by Salman Khan, in this context.

Next, Saurabh Uboweja, founder, CEO and director, brand strategy, Brands of Desire (a brand and design consultancy), addressed the audience. "Is the Indian healthcare industry branded?" he asked, going on to answer in the negative. "More than 80 per cent of the Indian healthcare system is unbranded, poorly branded or branded though 'Jugaad' (Indian slang for 'frugal innovation')," he said, before sharing the five qualities of a desirable healthcare brand in India. They are: ability, affordability, accessibility, acceptability and accountability.

Vineet Singhal, operating unit head for India and Southeast Asia at Novartis (OTC Division), assured the delegates that going OTC doesn't necessarily mean an increase in investment and distribution. Instead, brands have the option of merely refurbishing the existing packaging and communication and increasing the availability and visibility of the product at the retail level. By way of example, he spoke about Triaminic (a cough suppressant/nasal decongestant for kids) that has effectively and inexpensively used the outdoor space in Jakarta.

Ashish Bhatt, country director, Merck Consumer Health shared some category projections: the OTC segment is expected to grow at 9.9 per cent from 2013 to 2014 and Vitamin B supplements as well as drugs for cough-cold will be highly demanded in the days ahead. He spoke about Nasivion, the nasal spray endorsed by cricketer Rohit Sharma, in this context.

Then spoke Rashmi Thosar, CEO, Brandcare Medical Advertising, a healthcare consultancy. She brought to the stage some useful insights. "Patients have stopped worshipping the doctor. The 'patient' has become a 'consumer'. "Like clothes, accessories and bags, today healthcare options are being tested across social groups," she said, going on to classify patients as either "content, trusting and compliant", "confused and burdened with information overload" or "the kind that compares treatment options and costs before making a decision." Thosar added that the healthcare consumer has a high propensity for being a brand loyalist. All he/she needs is appropriate attention.

Om Manchanda, CEO, Dr. Lal Path Labs, said, "A large part of the healthcare industry lies in services." Part of this, he said, is diagnostics -- a service that currently forms 5 per cent of the total healthcare market. Diagnostics, which is the fastest growing segment within healthcare, can be further divided into radiology and pathology. He predicted, "In the future, we will see a paradigm shift from 'illness' to 'wellness'. And healthcare will change from being prescriptive to preventive, and in the future, even predictive - people will be able to foresee which diseases they are likely to develop say, 20 years down the line, and start taking medication accordingly," he said.

Ragini Mohanty, head, healthcare management programmes, WeSchool, spoke about the role of academia, talent management and the human resources aspect of healthcare. Her tip was to collaborate across disciplines to bring out the best of the industry. "Don't work in silos," she said.

The last presentation of the day was by Kunal Bhatia, director, marketing, DePuy Synthes, J&J. His topic was: knee replacement surgery for patients suffering from osteoporosis and arthritis. He observed that in India, people tend to postpone knee replacement surgery for years and get it done only when the pain becomes unbearable or they become immobile. Yet, India ranks No. 3 in the world when it comes to online keyword searches for the words 'knee replacement'. "Enquiries regarding this procedure are made by not the patients themselves but their caregivers (mostly their offspring)," he shared.

One of the most interesting things Bhatia said was regarding his firm's demonstration of success: "In our healthcare forums, we demonstrate effectiveness of our knee surgeries by asking people who have had the procedure done to go running up on the stage!"

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