Marketing to Type 2 Diabetes Patients: How Pharma Can Increase Treatment Awareness, Improve Outcomes

The rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes has attracted the attention of many major drugmakers in recent decades, leading to innovations such as novel insulins and easier-to-use glucagon injections. However, despite being one of the biggest markets in pharma, diabetes drugmakers have a hard time standing out in the crowded field, and many patients still aren’t confident in their ability to manage their disease.

To boost brand awareness and improve outcomes for type 2 diabetes patients, pharma can support two complementary paths: medication and lifestyle changes. Data collected by Phreesia Life Sciences in December 2021 and January 2022 from more than 4,000 adults diagnosed with or treated for type 2 diabetes as they checked in for their doctors’ appointments offers insights into how to most effectively reach these patients.

Patients Are Open to New Medication Options but Have Limited Treatment Knowledge

Most patients are receptive to trying prescription medications to manage their type 2 diabetes, with Phreesia survey data showing that 87% of diabetics have tried insulin or non-insulin prescription drugs to treat their condition.

Patients are willing to explore new prescription therapies as well, but most are unaware of their available options. While more than three-quarters (76%) of surveyed patients said they had heard of the decades-old generic diabetes drug metformin, no other medication was recognized by more than 30% of respondents: Eli Lilly’s Trulicity (29%), Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Jardiance (27%) and Merck’s Januvia (24%) were cited as the next-most-recognized diabetes drugs.

Patient satisfaction with those drugs also is lower than with some less-recognized products. Among patients who had taken Jardiance and Januvia—the most commonly tried diabetes drugs after metformin—just 22% and 20% of patients, respectively, reported being completely satisfied with them.

Meanwhile, patients who had taken Novo Nordisk’s Tresiba, NovoLog, or Ozempic, or Lilly’s Humalog were most satisfied with their treatments. Tresiba led the way, with 35% of respondents reporting complete satisfaction with the drug and 29% being very satisfied, yet only 5% of patients said they have ever used the treatment and 6% said they were currently using it.

Drive Medication Switching by Increasing Drug Awareness and Holistic Support

Raising patients’ awareness about the various diabetes medications on the market can help support their transition to brands that may better meet their needs. Phreesia survey data indicates that patients are open to making a prescription switch, especially given their relatively low levels of satisfaction with many diabetes drugs. In fact, 71% of patients who have tried a medication said they are likely to try a new medication for type 2 diabetes, and 37% said they are very or extremely likely to try a new drug.

“As marketers, this presents an opportunity to engage and educate consumers in places where they already consume information to make sure they feel empowered to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about what treatment options are best for them,” says Mark Materacky, Vice President of Consumer Marketing, Novo Nordisk.

Providing patients with resources and guidance for managing the comorbidities that come with diabetes is another key opportunity for pharma companies to expand their support for this patient population. For example, despite 42% of surveyed type 2 diabetes patients reporting that their condition has had at least a moderate impact on their mental health, 77% said they have not sought any mental health support. And while nonpharmacological interventions such as exercise can help manage type 2 diabetes, nearly one-third (31%) of the surveyed diabetics described their activity level as “sedentary.”

Patients’ low uptake of diabetes-related support in areas such as exercise and mental health signal marketing opportunities to develop and deliver resources that can simultaneously help diabetes patients better manage their disease and help brands stand out from their competitors. And, considering type 2 diabetes patients’ elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and other serious health conditions, it is imperative to engage them in ways that create brand understanding, while also motivating them to seek holistic care that addresses not only their primary disease, but also their related health risks, Materacky says.

“For Novo Nordisk, understanding the interconnection of diabetes, obesity, and specific cardiometabolic risk factors—and driving relevant, engaging ways to educate around these—is critical to supporting the communities we serve and ultimately helping people with chronic diseases live longer, healthier lives,” he adds.

Reach Patients During Doctor Discussions at the Point of Care

Phreesia’s survey data reveals that many type 2 diabetes patients are interested in addressing their diabetes and related health issues with their doctors. As examples, 60% of surveyed patients said they have discussed weight loss with the main doctor who treats their type 2 diabetes, and close to half (44%) have talked about new prescription medications with their doctor.

Patients’ openness to discussing their diabetes treatment with their providers makes the point of care a critical place to connect with them and present them with branded or unbranded awareness campaigns right before those discussions, explains Christine Mormile, Director of Media, CMI Media Group.

“It’s about being at the right place at the right time. And as much as it matters with reach, frequency, and being among content and websites that consumers visit, there’s more to engagement beyond that,” Mormile says. “Connecting with patients when they’re about to meet with their doctor and while they’re in a healthcare state of mind is crucial for helping them to better manage their condition.”

Providing patients with support materials such as tailored nutritional information, lifestyle tips, and tools to help them better understand how medications work will empower them in conversations with their doctor and help them find their best treatment options.


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