In Sickness or in Wellness?

Surely the more sick people in the world the better, well for pharmaceutical companies at least?

But do Pharma companies really need to rely on people being ill to make money?

I’ll answer this but first some background.

As part of their strategic process, Pharma companies describe the journey of a patient through the healthcare system, as a series of steps.

A very simple example is illustrated below, however this could be much more complicated with various referral, assessment and follow up stages.

BP1

For the patient to present to the doctor we need them to get sick first? I never see Pharma marketing strategists focusing on what happens before the patient gets sick. (unless they are in the Vaccines market)

But there is a big opportunity prior to patients getting sick

How about infecting people or at least forming strategic alliances with fast food or tobacco companies to ensure a throughput of sick people?

OK that is not what I am talking about, the big opportunity is actually around prevention.

Prevention is the ‘missing link’ of the patient journey

BP2

But if we prevent people getting ill, they won’t go on this ‘sickness’ journey and thus won’t require Pharma medicines?!

I agree keeping people healthy goes against the traditional pharma business model.  It is easy to understand why Pharmacos are not spending lots of money to prevent people ever needing their medicines.

When I suggest during Pharma meetings, that their business models need to change, and we have to stop people getting sick, there are some forward thinking people who agree, but mostly I end up grabbing my coat and sprinting for the nearest exit.

But done in the right way disease prevention can make very good commercial sense rather than being a purely altruistic deed.

Consider the current landscape, health systems around the world are at crisis point, with an aging population, many of whom are sick.  The costs of drugs are spiraling out of control.

Economics, Healthcare systems, Technology and our expectations are bringing the wellness and prevention agenda sharply into focus.

Imagine you sell a diabetes drug, but you can actually help well-people manage their lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet, and if they are on preventative medicines, help ensure they take these as required.

(I call them well-people to make the point, some may be patients in the traditional sense having other issues such as high blood pressure or obesity, but are not yet and hopefully never will be diabetes patients)

The support given could be in the form of a wellness application and professional interventions, e.g. coaching to empower the well-people to focus on wellness goals, thus reducing their risks of developing diabetes.

Imagine, if this wellness effort is done in a measurable way with a specific set of well-people,  and the incidence of diabetes is significantly reduced, in this population, compared to a matched set of well-people without this additional support.

This will be worth a significant amount of money to any health system, therefore profits are there to be made.  You don’t even need a diabetes drug to make money, and if you do happen to have an effective one, it can be used on appropriate patients who unfortunately do develop diabetes.

Pharma companies are living proof there is money to be made from sickness but can they demonstrate there is money to be made from wellness?

Well if they don’t someone else will.

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