Guest opinion: Harnessing communication power of pharmacy

BY Jim Taratunio

Over-the-counter and health-and-beauty care marketers have been struggling to find ways to harness the communication power of pharmacy to help them build their brand equity. The path to achieve this goal has been for consumer packaged goods companies to develop pharmacy programs designed to educate and capture the attention of pharmacists so that pharmacists may educate their patients about their products at the point of decision-making.

The question is: Are marketers getting the desired effect their programs were designed to deliver, and are consumers getting the right information?

Here are five ways marketers can harness the full communication power of the pharmacy:

1. Understand that pharmacy programs are unique collaborative account marketing programs. Too often marketers “add on” a pharmacy program using OTC/CPG-oriented materials that have strong consumer-sell positioning. This approach does not win the “hearts and minds” of pharmacists. Presentations made to the pharmacy division need to be designed for the pharmacy division and speak to its motivations—not simply a replay of the OTC division presentation.

The pharmacy division is motivated by a professional service orientation, with the pharmacy taking a more active role in the overall health and wellness of its patients, growing loyalty and retention by being a trusted provider of healthcare services.

The OTC division is focused on classic retailer procurement practices, viewing medicines as CPG products and using the conventions of category management, shopper marketing, and unit and dollar sales and profits as success measures.

2. Pharmacy time is valuable. The high cost of a pharmacists’ time can be offset by effective utilization of pharmacy technicians and pharmacy associates, by assigning two levels of messaging based on the skill set of each group.

Pharmacists should primarily fill a support role (i.e., “reactive”), counseling, providing education, recommending product and answering questions on an exception basis. Pharmacy technicians and associates should fill an awareness role (i.e., “proactive”) at either the prescription drop-off or pick-up.

Messaging should take no more than 30 seconds for a pharmacist to complete in a typical patient encounter, and 15 seconds for an awareness message by the pharmacy technician.

3. Develop collateral materials that will actually be used by the pharmacy team. Message communication at the pharmacy needs to be different than the traditional OTC/CPG approach. Marketers need to speak to the patient through the learned intermediaries in their language. Tone and positioning matter—pharmacists consider themselves unbiased healthcare professionals who want to focus on the health and wellness of their patients, and provide educational information and guidance for their medication choices. Collateral materials should include:

Acover note that provides a top-line summary of the program, roles and responsibilities, start and end dates, goals, objectives and measurement criteria, and authorization by pharmacy division management;

Apharmacy team training guide that conforms to retailers’ specific pharmacy operations and training methodologies in a format that can be easily downloaded at the pharmacy, and includes:

– A pharmacology box in a format consistent with OTC monographs;

– Scripted consumer-counseling examples to ensure consistency in messaging; and

– Scripted pharmacy technician/associate awareness messaging.

Patient collateral material should provide understanding of the relevant condition, a condition management segment that includes the brand as a suggestion for symptom relief, tips for lifestyle changes and prevention, and an offer that is customized on a retailer-specific basis.

4. Develop easy-to-understand performance criteria with reasonable and well-defined goals that are agreed on by pharmacy management.

Keep the program short to maintain interest and enthusiasm—we recommend a period of approximately three weeks with fixed start and end dates;

Establish a fixed number of patient interactions per week defining those interactions as an equivalent of a transaction;

Clearly define the parameters of patient interactions;

Define the roles of the pharmacist and other pharmacy team members;

Have product available at the counter; and

Avoid such peak workload periods as flu vaccination season and the Medicare and Medicaid prescription drug plan change period, when pharmacy programs tend to be more crowded for resources.

5. Measure it. When people know the program is being measured, compliance levels are higher.

Obtain a copy of the pharmacy management store-level e-mail communication;

Request a simple report that details the number of stores that read e-mail for review with pharmacy management;

Be specific—assign three levels of patient-interaction goals based on total number of prescriptions dispensed, demographics and condition propensity. This helps pharmacy managers allocate the resources needed to accomplish program goals. For example:

– Top script volume stores: 75 patient interactions per week;

– Mid-level script volume stores: 50 patient interactions per week;

– Low-level script volume stores: 25 patient interactions per week;

Conduct a statistically significant telephone survey in the last week of the program with pharmacy managers to review the overall program, patient interaction goals, number of patient collateral materials remaining, issues and opportunities; and

If using a coupon as a patient-added value, assign a special code to those coupons to determine if there was any sales lift.


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Survey: Adolescent vaccination on the rise

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA A recent survey out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that adolescent vaccination at the national, state and selected local area levels are all on the rise.


Continued increases — as much as 15% — were made in nationwide coverage for vaccines specifically recommended for pre-teens, according to 2009 National Immunization Survey-Teen estimates released Thursday by the CDC.



The survey of more than 20,000 teens ages 13 to 17 years found that in 2009 there were increases in the percentage of teens in this age group who had received vaccines routinely recommended for 11- and 12-year-olds. Specifically: 

     • For one dose of the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine, coverage went up about 15 points to about 56%;      • For one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine, coverage went up about 12 points to about 54%;      • For girls who received at least one dose of human papillomavirus vaccine, coverage increased 7 points to about 44%.         However, for girls who received the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine, coverage was only about 27% (a 9% increase);



"This year’s data are mixed," stated Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We can see that more parents of adolescents are electing to protect their children from serious diseases such as pertussis, meningitis and cervical cancer, but there is clear room for improvement in our system’s ability to reach this age group."


"Pertussis outbreaks in several states and an increase in pertussis-related infant deaths in California highlight how important it is for pre-teens to receive the Tdap booster," Schuchat added. "It is important for teens and adults to get a one-time dose of Tdap to protect themselves and those around them from whooping cough. Young infants are most vulnerable to serious complications from pertussis and can be infected by older siblings, parents or other caretakers."


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RediClinic announces availability of FluMist


HOUSTON RediClinic, which operates more than 20 clinics in H-E-B grocery stores in Houston and Austin, Texas, has announced the availability of FluMist at its clinics for the 2010-2011 flu season.

The clinic also soon will offer the flu shot Fluvirin, which is given with a needle and approved for use in people 4 years of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions, the clinic operator stated.

FluMist, which currently is available in a limited supply, is a needle-free, nasal-spray flu vaccine. FluMist is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.


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