July 11th, 2011

Pharma Is Pouring Marketing $ Into China

Pharmalot

As drugmakers reevaluate their sales and marketing spending in the US, those dollars are being shifted to Asia, notably China, and Latin America. For instance, spending on meetings and other events rose slighty more than 5 percent worldwide last year to $13 billion. And this amounts to 14 percent of global spending on marketing, according to Cegedim Strategic Data.

The growth in meetings and events was largest in China, where spending rose 19 percent, and Latin America, where the increase amounted to 18 percent. Spending in Japan was 14 percent. But spending in the US fell by 17 percent and Europe saw a decline of 7 percent. The trend is hardly surprising, especially given the industry emphasis on these regions.

Meanwhile, worldwide spending on sales teams and other marketing channels rose just 1.5 percent to $91 billion last year compared to 2009. The growth in China, Japan and Latin America was offset by cuts in sales and marketing in the US and major European markets. In fact, nine of the top 10 drugmakers in the US and Europe cut sales forces. Among mature markets, Japan was a major exception with increased spending last year.

“In emerging markets, the industry has quickly adopted the use of meetings and events as an efficient way to achieve high quality interaction with a maximum number of healthcare professionals,” Christopher Wooden, vp for the CSD Global Promotion Audit, says in a statement. “This augments one-to-one rep detailing as companies face the challenge of rapid growth and training demands.”

This may raise an interesting issue. In the US and Western Europe, industry overtures to physicians have become a controversial topic. From dinners and freebies to consulting and speaking fees to continuing medication education sponsorship, considerable scrutiny has been focused on the extent to which industry may unduly influence medical research and practice.

As marketing budgets rise in other countries where such practices are nascent or perhaps not as visible or well understood, these concerns may not register. This suggests the global pharmaceutical industry may be entering a new round of promotional activity in which oversight may take time to catch up.

In any event, Cegedim reports that global marketing spending among the leading 10 drugmakers was nearly flat last year, but accounted for morethan 41 percent of the total marketing investment – the same ratio as 2009. Three of the 10 leading drugmakers, by the way, are based in the US, and five are in Europe. The other two are based in Japan.

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