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The promotion of new drugs could be more effective

02 February 2010

Some of the resources invested by the pharmaceutical industry in promoting new drugs could be spent more effectively. ‘Drugs manufacturers cannot do without promotional activities, but at the same time there’s a lot of ignorance about the compilation of the ideal mix of promotional activities in the pharmaceutical market’, says Sara Kremer. She will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 11 February.


Kremer researched how pharmaceutical manufacturers could do a better job of drawing the attention of doctors to their products. It’s a tricky subject, the PhD student acknowledges. ‘The pharmaceutical market is one where major profits are made and huge sums are involved in promoting health. A great number of promotional activities are used to increase profits in this market. The strongly commercial aspect of a market that revolves around health is a sensitive combination.’


Not easy

However, pharmaceutical companies cannot do without promotional activities, explains Kremer. ‘Pharmaceutical manufacturers have to earn back their huge investments in a limited number of years, before the patent runs out. That is only possible by actively drawing the attention of doctors to the new product.’ When promoting their drugs in the Netherlands, manufacturers are only allowed to concentrate on doctors and medical specialists. And it’s not easy to influence those professionals, says Kremer. ‘Doctors are only slightly susceptible to promotional activities. When prescribing medication, doctors often choose from a fixed set of drugs. Manufacturers have their work cut out to ensure that their drugs are included in that set.’


Drug salespersons

Kremer demonstrates that the use of drug salespersons is usually the most effective way of promoting drugs. ‘A drug salesperson is happy if he or she gets ten minutes to introduce a new product. Nevertheless, those few minutes of direct contact are crucial to gaining a foothold in the fixed set of products used by that doctor.’



Kremer also investigated the pharmaceutical industry in the United States, where promotional activities directed towards consumers are permitted.The PhD student demonstrated that in general, these are less effective than activities directed towards doctors. On the other hand, Kremer did find a positive effect when both instruments are used simultaneously. ‘I could imagine that it would be beneficial to permit promotional activities directed towards consumers in the Netherlands as well’, says Kremer. ‘Health is becoming more and more important to many people and patients are becoming more articulate. Patients with chronic diseases in particular are very involved in their treatment plans. By providing that group with more information about the range of drugs, they could gain more influence over what is prescribed.’


Effect on welfare

In that way activities directed towards promoting new drugs could have a positive effect on general welfare, claims Kremer. ‘It is important that an innovative drug, for example that has fewer side effects or is easier to use, becomes known about and is prescribed by doctors. In addition, promotional activities could also ensure that a new drug reaches potential users faster. That would have a positive effect on the general welfare of a population.’


Curriculum vitae

Sara Kremer (Vries, 1981) will be awarded her PhD on 11 February 2010 by the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Groningen. The title of her thesis is ‘Examining the effectiveness of promotional expenditures for pharmaceutical products’. Her supervisors were Prof. P.S.H. Leeflang and Dr J.E. Wieringa. Kremer conducted her research at the SOM research school of the University of Groningen. Kremer currently works for GfK Daphne Communication Management as a Senior Project Manager Research.



Sara Kremer,

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.58 a.m.
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