Association lists — a prescription for pharma success

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Terry Nugent
Terry Nugent

A movie about the outlook for pharmaceuti­cal marketing might be Brave New World meets Back to the Future. Cost pressures from a paucity of new products, price pressure from the public and private sectors, and prescriber backlash mean an industry reliant on massive sales forces and mega-expensive marketing needs to market smarter.

There is precedent: Before the modern blockbuster product era, pharmaceutical companies promoted their products with postcards. They were efficient and cost-effec­tive. They worked.

I believe that the prescription for success is going back to direct marketing. It's the safe and effective way to do more with less – direct marketing can ensure legal/regulatory compli­ance of copy, graphics, and offer; and it is measurable and thus accountable.

Lists and databases are decisive in executing direct marketing in the pharmaceutical vertical. Association lists are the founda­tion of pharma DM. That's because unlike in most industries, healthcare professional associations often maintain databases that include members and non-members alike.

The industry relies primarily on the American Medical Asso­ciation (AMA) Physicians List to reach doctors. The list includes all US physicians, both members and non-members of the AMA, and includes physicians in training (residents) as well as in prac­tice. The AMA even has a list of medical students.

The AMA list has been enhanced by its database licensees with numerous data elements essential to modern pharmaceuti­cal marketing. Principal among these is prescriber profile data, which enables direct marketers to pinpoint perfect prospects for their promotions, based on individual physicians' prescribing behavior, which is tracked by therapeutic class (e.g., statins) as well as brand or product (e.g., Lipitor).

The list has also been enhanced with survey data regarding physician preferences. For example, marketers can target physi­cians based on their media preferences — e.g., physicians who prefer to receive product information via direct mail.

AMA-based e-mail broadcast services enable marketers to use all AMA data and enhancements to target physician e-mail broadcasts, which dramatically improves open and click-through rates by pinpointing perfect prospects for e-mail promotions.

Physicians are not alone in prescribing drugs though — lists of physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are also essential to pharmaceutical marketers. The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) list is available to market to PAs, but marketers generally rely on compiled lists to reach NPs.

Pharmacists are also a critical audience for pharmaceutical marketers, as they influence prescriptions at the point of pur­chase. The American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) list is available for pharmaceutical marketing.

So look for direct marketing, led by e-mail, to be the fastest-growing aspect of pharmaceutical marketing.

Terry Nugent is VP of marketing at Medical Marketing Service, Inc. Reach him at


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