Novo Nordisk talks up its broader strategy for diabetes marketing

By Jonah Comstock
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novo nordisk diabetes downloadGoing "beyond the pill" doesn't just mean devising new digital technologies to market a drug or promote medication adherence with software tools. Sometimes it means engaging patients in their patient journey long before a drug enters into the equation -- and hoping it pays dividends later on.

Jeremy Shepler, senior director of diabetes marketing at Novo Nordisk, spoke at the ePharma Summit last week about some of the ways Novo Nordisk is supporting diabetes patients by taking a long view of the condition. In the past, Shepler said, pharma marketing was "all about us." 

"[It was] brand promotion, let’s grow our share," he said. "Brand education, addressing an appropriate use of our medication. But disease education? A lot of times the senior management didn’t necessarily believe in that. The focus has always been on how it could drive our brands. And at the end of the day, we know we’re not altruistic. We have to make ends meet. But there’s a mix. There is something in the middle. We have to think about the right part of this equation, which is focusing on becoming more customer centric."

Novo Nordisk has launched several programs aimed at getting more patients with diabetes screened and into treatment in the first place, and though they all feature the Novo Nordisk logo, they're not pushing any particular product.

"In the United States, there’s 29.1 million people with diabetes," Shepler said. "This does not include the 79 million people who have pre-diabetes. It’s an epidemic. Of the 29.1 million people, only 73 percent of them are diagnosed. What this effectively means is that 8 million people are walking around unknowingly with a disease that left untreated can cause chronic kidney disease, blindness, amputation and a whole host of other issues and they don’t even know it."

So one Novo Nordisk program, called Ask.Screen.Know, focuses on getting members of the public in general to ask their doctor about diabetes, get screened, and know what their blood glucose and other vital numbers mean. The company worked with RunDMC's RevRun on that campaign.

"When people get screened, they’re not coming to Novo Nordisk first, we’re way downstream," he said. "But how we can be of value to society and how we can be of value to our customers is to help them manage their populations. When we go to payers and tell them, listen we have a great program, that we can help you address this whole screening issue, make sure patients are aware of this disease and we talk about this program, their eyes light up."

Another program, called Cornerstones4Care, aims to educate patients who already know they have diabetes about how to manage the disease. Novo Nordisk partnered with Michael Stevens, whose YouTube channel VSauce is one of the top five most popular in the world. They made a series of videos that anyone can use to learn about diabetes, and that providers and payers can send to their members.

Cornerstones4Care also includes the Diabetes Health Coach, an online platform to help people manage their diabetes, co-developed with the Joslin Diabetes Center. Diabetes Health Coach also doesn't require the user to have a Novo Nordisk prescription, but additional features are available if they do.

"As we go through this programming, it goes from unbranded to branded experience," said Shepler. "And what I can tell you is, we do know it drives incremental prescriptions and we are very very close to connecting lab data to this and actually showing outcomes. And that’s where the conversation changes. That’s where this whole thing becomes very different."