Drug Company Offers Free Calling Time

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In an effort to gather crucial data that could spur popularity of its new drug, Teva Marion Partners, a Kansas City-based pharmaceutical company, this month is dropping 1,500 mailings that include a survey packaged on a Sprint prepaid phone card.

The mailings will hit three demographic groups - health care professionals, patients with multiple sclerosis and employees of multiple sclerosis societies. Prospect names are being culled from leads generated by the sales force, respondents to the company's toll-free number and patients using the drug, called Copaxone (glatiramer acetate for injection), which helps victims of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis,.

When callers dial the toll-free number that appears on their card, they will hear an introduction and a series of voice prompts that guide them through a set of questions. The callers answer each question by pressing a number on their telephone dial pad. A different toll-free number is being assigned to each demographic group to segment response.

The surveys will collect patient and professional opinions about the drug and competing drugs in addition to suggestions about how Teva Marion Partners can better serve patient needs. Sprint's database technology will package the incoming raw data into reports and forward them regularly to Teva Marion Partner's marketing team.

"The cards help us to continually refine what we are doing," said Gwen Duzenberry, manager of market research at Teva Marion Partners. "One of the great things about the cards is that you can tweak the cards and really make them specific to what your marketing or management needs are."

Duzenberry has a year's experience in using the prepaid cards as survey instruments and even as simple thank you gifts. Teva Marion Partners first used prepaid phone cards including a survey one year ago.

The company had only four employees at the time and little money to fuel extensive marketing efforts. Duzenberry was on the lookout for a cost-effective market research tool that would help the company obtain relevant information on multiple sclerosis pharmaceutical therapies and the needs of people in the multiple sclerosis community.

"I was looking for something that was cost effective and still could be an honorarium to respondents of surveys," Duzenberry said. "The phone card seemed like a good method of collecting quantitative information over time and an easy way to gather the information by segment. And it's much less expensive than traditional research. You are reaching many people without the mail cost and personnel and hours usually needed."

About a month before the drug's launch, the company attended a conference, the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, that involved many groups from the multiple sclerosis community. Duzenberry gave out three sets of phone cards aimed at the company's target audiences - health care professionals, people with multiple sclerosis and employees of multiple sclerosis societies.

About 500 conference attendees picked up of one the cards, and 75 percent chose to complete the survey to take advantage of free long distance time.

"I've been using them ever since," Duzenberry said.

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