Sales Sector: Amazon Pharmaceuticals May Be Coming Soon

Already in talks with PBMs, Amazon aims at becoming a drug provider.

Amazon may soon enter the pharmaceutical industry as the retail giant is already in talks with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Amazon has much to gain by entering an industry with net sales of $136 billion in 2016. A Goldman Sachs analyst speculates that Amazon wants to enter as a drug provider at a time when tensions are high among pharma companies, middlemen, and the public, to gain the edge as a more transparent drug pricing supplier.

Due to its top-notch logistics network, the company is positioned to emerge as an online retail pharmacy. Yet Amazon will still face challenges with the safety regulations that make drug distribution more complicated than anything it has previously done—but is actively drafting its business launch approach to deal with such obstacles.

Discoveries/Innovations: A Better Way to Diagnose a Fatal Rare Nerve Disease

A new skin biopsy technique diagnoses patients years earlier.

John Hopkins physicians hope recent research success will rapidly advance clinical trials of treatments that may slow familial transthyretin amyloidosis and extend patients’ lives. The fatal rare nerve disease causes mutations of DNA, promoting abnormal buildup of a transport protein, transthyretin, and depositing it in nerve and heart cells. Patients experience progressive pain, muscle weakness, and ultimately kidney, heart, and other organ failure. From onset, people typically live 10 to 12 years, but diagnosis often occurs in later stages, requiring a surgical nerve biopsy.

The new study maps out a faster and better diagnosis method using a modified version of the skin biopsy technique. “In the last few months, we’ve diagnosed several people with the disease years before the diagnosis is typically made, which has changed how we do medicine in our nerve clinic,” says Michael Polydefkis, MD, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and study author. “Many more gene mutations are not detectable using this convenient skin technique, but it is a starting point for future studies that can improve diagnosis rates even more. And we will be able to diagnose more patients sooner, which is important for patients and their families so they can begin planning for the future. The good news: Drug companies are using our skin biopsy technique in ongoing clinical trials to monitor treatment success.”

Trend Setting: Cord-Cutting Could Affect Big Pharma

Sixty percent of the average pharmaceutical’s advertising budget is allocated for television time, but Americans simply aren’t spending as much time watching TV anymore. About 30% more Americans are “cutting the cord,” or opting for digital content streaming from networks such as Netflix and Hulu. How will pharma marketers adapt?

Kirsty Whelan, Vice President, Healthcare Strategy at imre, says, “What we’re trying to do with the brands we work with is encourage them to think about ‘future proofing.’ Millennials are the caregivers of today and perhaps the patients of tomorrow.” She also notes that is imperative to understand the audience, their media consumption, behavior, and habits and then right-size media strategies to engage over time. This trend can be positive if pharma marketers learn to tell better stories, rather than fitting as much regulatory information as possible into a 30-second ad. Interactive digital and social programs can better help patients at a time when they are using technology to take more control over their own healthcare.