Learning to Innovate on the Global Stage

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Pharma innovation

Two of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical markets are China and India, and many U.S. and European pharma companies are moving aggressively to develop a footprint in these two large countries. These two markets offer unique opportunities and challenges, and it’s important to regularly bring together senior pharma and biotech executives from China, India and the United States to discuss ways of working together.

I had the privilege of moderating a panel on Marketing and Media for the recent Global Pharma Symposia on Innovation in the US, China and India. There were several key themes that emerged from the conference and from our panel discussion of global strategic marketing that I think are relevant for senior pharma marketers.

Global Market Access
It is clear that the global market for pharma is changing dramatically, and not always in the most intuitive and helpful ways. While markets like China and India have always been challenging for US-based companies for reasons of culture, IP-protection, and pricing, at least these countries were eager to get access to western medications. According to Derek Wagner, a global commercial leader at Abbott, when he first began working in China and India 20 years ago, the markets were open. Now there are many more regulatory barriers, even at the provincial level. Market access has become a major issue.

In the face of this challenge, Ashish Sagrolikar, a senior global executive at Baxter Biosciences, notes the important influence of patient groups for gaining market access in emerging countries. Patient communities are beginning to organize around demands for access to the latest therapies. This movement has been enhanced by the growth in social media where patients and caregivers can find each other and discuss ways to pressure local governments to provide availability of innovative Rx and device products.

Samir Bhattacharyya, head of Market Access for DePuy Mitek, a division of J&J agrees. Although market access in general is getting more difficult, Samir finds it’s still easier for innovative products to get a foothold. Me-too products, on the other hand, are seen as non-essential by increasingly savvy emerging markets.

Role of Innovation
To win in these global markets, innovation must happen beyond just the level of the molecule. Health innovation must emerge at the intersection of technology, diagnostics and pharma. Andrea McGonigle from Microsoft noted the important rise in integrated and wireless patient monitoring devices, web-based clinical trial recruitment, and mobile apps to encourage adherence. These are all promising areas for growth and expansion in emerging markets.

A Global Approach to Segmentation
From a global marketing strategy perspective, Derek Wagner offered a helpful perspective on market segmentation, noting that it needs to move beyond simply country-based targeting. He suggests, for example, that a mid-tier segment in China acts much like a mid-tier segment in Brazil. Or a small segment in India that can’t justify a marketing program might be bundled with 25 other small segments from countries around the world and turned into a profitable target market.

Social Media Support for Patients
In a world in which four billion people own a cell phone and nearly one billion are on Facebook, the media mix for global marketing is also changing dramatically. Ashish has had great success in developing a Facebook community for patients with hemophilia.

Typically most consumers don’t turn to a pharma brand for information resources, but as the brand team at Baxter gained in their understanding of the inflection points when a patient might need help with a product, they could develop unique products and solutions to meet patients at their point of need. Baxter sees itself as the manufacturer “standing just outside the door, available when you need us.” This approach to global customer lifetime management is an area of real opportunity for brands.

According to my experienced panelists, there is no longer any “low hanging fruit” in emerging markets where companies can quickly and inexpensively capture market share. Global markets are strategically important for growth-oriented life science companies, but they require a new assessment of the risk-adjusted challenges and the opportunities and a willingness to take a fresh perspective on specific market conditions.