Needs, Wants, or Greeds?
Classical and Conventional marketing tell us that marketers have to identify the needs and wants, even unearth the latent needs of consumers to design and deliver products that meet them. This would satisfy the customers and customer satisfaction is everything that marketers were striving for. Then came some smarter marketers who said it is not enough to satisfy the needs of the consumers but you need to delight them by exceeding expectations.
Needs by definition are necessities. They are a must-to-have. In the healthcare context patients’ needs are of paramount importance. In fact, patients’ needs are the only needs that need to be satisfied. Because physicians needs, and the drug makers’ needs cannot be different. They are the same as that of the patients’ needs. Better outcomes, safety, efficacy and affordability- that’s what the patients, physicians, drug makers and other service providers need.
Wants are wishes, desires, demands, and cravings that one may have. Patients, usually do not have wants pertaining to healthcare. They need good, quality, dependable and affordable healthcare. They may have wants as human beings like the rest of us regarding a number of other things. They do not have wants in the healthcare context. Who can have wants even in the healthcare context? Physicians and drug makers and service providers. Add the ever-increasing and never-ending proliferation of generic brands to this scenario and you get the picture of an upward spiral of escalating costs of wants that equal the arms race between the warring nations.
When wants become excessive, especially for wealth or possessions they become greeds.
Winning or wooing the prolific-prescribers with enormous practice becomes the priority or preoccupation of pharmaceutical marketers over everything else. They start offering to satisfy the desires of the prescribing physicians by giving a better mousetrap that is more expensive, attractive and desirable. When a physician can choose, say for example over 224 branded-generic variations in India of Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin), a lipid-regulating agent, how can you give a compelling reason to choose your brand among the rest? In the absence of any credible scientific evidence, the principle of reciprocity takes precedence over everything else. You would therefore, resort to giving a compelling gift – an iPad, laptop, air-conditioner, a choicest consumer durable or even a gold coins!
Multinational companies that want a piece of this crowded market have to adapt. Otherwise they are not going to survive. As Big Pharma has pushed into emerging markets for accelerating their growth, they have been running into trouble with their home-market overseers. Many of the world’s top drug makers have been warned in recent regulatory filings of potential costs related to charges of corruption in foreign markets.
Jyoti Mirdha, a Lok Sabha M P and a member of the forty-fifth Parliamentary Committee, in their recommendations asked the government to add appropriate regulations to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules to stop the pharmaceutical manufacturers from offering such freebies that MCI (Medical Council of India) prohibits. The DOP (Department of Pharmaceuticals) does not seem to have any serious note of this. A non-binding toothless code of marketing practices has been proposed, instead.
MCI, no doubt, has a code of conduct on these ethical issues on paper, but did not implement it yet. In every major professional gatherings physicians too, discuss about ethical standards.
Sudarshan Jain, the managing director of Abbott India took a bold step of stopping the common practice of giving gifts to physicians. His email of few days ago states according to Reuters , “ only Abbott-approved clinical / scientific literature may be distributed to current and potential customers. No brand reminders or therapy reminders in your possession should be given to any current and potential customers and no further brand or therapy reminders should be ordered.” Will the rest of the industry follow the suit? Will Abbott survive as a lone wolf in the wilderness of no-gifts-to physicians? While these questions remain unanswered for the time being the key question is will ethical decisions come out victorious?
What is an ethical issue or decision? Here is a litmus test: Every one of us must ask ourselves before taking a decision and an action – Is this act of mine likely to improve patient outcomes, be it efficacy, safety, compliance, quality of life, and affordability? If the answer is ‘yes’ it is an ethical decision. If the answer is ‘no’ or even doubtful, it is not ethical.