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The Week That Was: Crises in Healthcare Communications

The Week That Was: Crises in Healthcare Communications

February 15, 2016 0 Comments


Denver Broncos or Carolina Panthers? For many Americans, the winner of the big game was inconsequential compared to the commercials that aired. Considering the hype around Super Bowl advertisements, it seems inevitable that at least one will stir up controversy. And last Sunday did not disappoint. Quicken Loans was on the receiving end after airing an ad that promoted their new “Rocket Loans,” an expedited mortgage service app. The 60-second commercial described an idealistic scenario which theorized that if loans were made easier to take out, an economic domino effect would follow, ultimately leading to a cycle of consumption. Regardless of the ad’s intent, backlash was fierce and steady on social media as viewers questioned whether Quicken Loans had considered the events that triggered the housing bubble and financial meltdown of 2008. Similarly, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo were lambasted by trade publications for ads promoting their therapies for opioid induced constipation. Lawmakers from state governors to the White House press secretary stated the drug makers’ ads for Movantik were an implicit endorsement for promoting opioid addiction. Similar ads personifying an intestine called into question whether the Super Bowl…the cultural epicenter of culinary indulgence…was the right time and place to make one question one’s choice of wings, nachos, and beverage. Definitely a bummer!

Our Take: In an era in which drug makers are under the magnifying glass to defend the cost of medicines, spending $5 million for 30 seconds of air time three days after a Congressional hearing on drug pricing is, well… not the smartest move we’ve seen. And while most ad makers desire to have their creative strategy highlighted in the Super Bowl press, this is one case for which less visibility may be preferable. The moves play right into the hands of politicians ready to pounce on existing populist frustrations about the cost of medicines. On the other hand, while Quicken Loans took heat on social media, its website was flooded with interested consumers. If the intent of the ad was to stir the pot and thereby attract attention to their mortgage service, then surely Quicken Loans scored a touchdown.



Dysfunction may be the mother of invention, at least that is becoming the case in the prescription drug retail industry. While the drug pricing debate continues to cast a dark cloud over the pharmaceutical industry, it is becoming a beacon of opportunity for Internet entrepreneurs trying to find solutions. The New York Times reported two companies, GoodRX and Blink Health, are attempting to find cheaper alternatives to expensive drugs and transform the way people purchase prescription medications. GoodRx collects drug prices at pharmacies around the country and connects consumers to coupons for increased affordability. Blink Health provides customers the chance to pay for their drugs online and pick up their prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The price of generic Lipitor highlights the discounts: GoodRx charges $12 for generic Lipitor, while Blink Health sells it for $9.94 — a stark contrast between the $196 and $61 price tags found at Kmart and Kroger, respectively. If you are thinking this sounds too good to be true, you’re partially right. Both GoodRx and Blink Health specialize in generic medicines and not the brand name drugs that tend to carry higher price tags and give people the most financial pain. However, with nearly 90% of prescriptions written in the US for generic drugs, the services could represent a major shift in how consumers buy their medicines.

Our Take: GoodRX and Blink Health are on the front lines in the growing consumerism movement in healthcare – in which consumers are taking a more active and empowered role in making health decisions. With many Americans feeling the pinch in their purse strings from the rising costs of goods and relatively stagnant salaries – e-services like GoodRX and Blink Health attempt to deliver to consumers both transparency and choice regarding the cost of drugs. While this strategy may be starting to disrupt the generic medicines industry, other areas of healthcare may be harder to change. McKinsey recently reported that while hospitals are publishing the cost of certain surgeries and procedures, their findings indicate that most consumers are not factoring in this pricing information when choosing their health own care services. When it comes to your doctor, apparently not just anyone will do!

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