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The right prescription of patent expiration

There has been a dark cloud looming over some of big pharma's giants as blockbuster drugs come off patent. According to Healthcare Finance News, big pharma is going to face major headwinds this year due to the upcoming patent expirations of the following blockbusters — Seroquol, Lexapro, Plavix, Singular and Actos.

There is, however, a way for pharmaceutical companies to harness flux and overcome the loss of their cash cow’s patent. A different brand strategy can provide just the life line needed. Pharmaceutical companies should consider their corporate brand at the heart of the their overall brand strategy. Corporate brand becomes the solution for differentiating in a crowded marketplace with similar and, more importantly, cheaper generic drugs.

Brand is playing a larger role in purchase decisions within the healthcare industry. In an environment where the marketing focus and budget were traditionally dedicated to the individual product brand, industry turbulence, including patent expiration, is creating a need for a different brand strategy in healthcare … and thus we see the rise of the healthcare corporate brand.

More and more we are seeing that consumers are willing to pay a premium for their healthcare. People pay a premium for designer spin and yoga classes that promise health and well-being, so why wouldn’t they buy upward when it comes to the pharmaceutical drugs that they put into their body and on which they rely on to keep them healthy and in often cases alive? I know I would certainly prefer to take a drug made by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca to a possibly unsafe, generic drug.

Healthcare branding and pharmaceutical branding are becoming no different than luxury goods branding — although the role that brand plays in healthcare is still light years away from that in the luxury goods market, the shift is happening and big pharma needs to pay attention and adjust their brand strategy.

Corporate brand is a branding strategy that is becoming more important in emerging markets. The strong corporate brand conveys credibility and reliability to all stakeholders: To physicians and patients, the message is equivalence, efficacy and safety. To the pharmacist, the message is reliability and ability to manufacture and deliver the product. Generic drugs just don’t have the same reputation as their brand name counterparts and are not able to communicate the messages that influence purchase decision in emerging markets.

From a healthcare branding-consultancy perspective, InterbrandHealth takes an in depth look at the role that brand plays in the pharmaceutical and even broader healthcare industries, with the paper“Vital Times: The Changing Role of Brand in the Health and Life Sciences industries.”

There is no doubt that 2012 will be a difficult time for big pharma, but a change in brand strategy could be just the prescription needed to sustain and outlive the turbulence this year is sure to bring.