Posted on December 05, 2017
Can Instagram be the pharmaceutical industry's new best friend?
This post is by no means a case study, but there are certain sets of patients who actively seek out better treatment options, and patients with diabetes are at the top of this unscientific list.
A close friend of mine has had Type 2 diabetes most of his life and it is a daily battle for him.
Diabetic patients don't have the chance to go to the doctor, get a surgical procedure and have all of their problems fixed.
Instead, they go to the doctor to get medication and devices that can help manage the disease. And repeat.
Again, until there is a cure for diabetes, these patients are faced with managing their diabetes everyday for the rest of their lives.
So how can Instagram and other social media platforms help increase patient awareness, and in turn, generate huge sums of revenue for products like MannKind's Afrezza?
Social media has helped people turn people into stars overnight so why can't it do the same for a medication that can change a patient's life?
Here's an example from a recent Instagram post about a new inhaled insulin medication called, Afrezza, from MannKind.
If you look at the comments, it's obvious many her followers had never heard of Afrezza? Inhaled insulin? Mind blown!
Medical device and pharmaceutical companies constantly struggle with patient awareness.
Whether it is spending $5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad or having a highly paid pharmaceutical rep drop off free samples to a doctors office, patient awareness is what companies live and die for.
Ok, what if they can get free marketing from patients?
Don't get me wrong, this is not easy. Patients are hard to please, but once they are sold, they will get on the mountain top and scream how much they love something.
But can social media platforms like Instagram really make a difference for a product like Afrezza?
As of September 2017, Instagram had 800 million monthly active users.
If Instagram didn't have enough reach for you, here is an example from Twitter where they have 330 million active monthly users. Yes, there is some crossover here but you get the point.
My son is T1D since 2014, he says thing may seem bad now but give yourself a chance and they will get better.— Steven Rodriguez (@Stepvenator) December 5, 2017
Easy for him to say, we got him off label Rx for #Afrezza inhaled insulin
Brings him down from 340 to 120 in an hour!
Patients drive change. My background is in the medical device industry and companies like Intuitive Surgical have mastered local patient awareness for their da Vinci surgical robot. With the help of hospitals and surgeons, they've been able to create a ground swell of patients coming in and saying they want their surgery with the robot versus traditional methods.
Here's the big difference: The total reach from social media is exponentially greater than the reach achieved by medical device companies who work with local hospitals and surgeons to drive patient awareness.
Additionally, once you have a surgery, you are typically done and you continue on with medical management.
With diabetes, there is a sense that any change for the better is a life changing event. It isn't just about a one day surgery.
Being able to improve your quality of life, for the rest of your life, is the main ingredient here, which is why you may see emotional posts about the life changing impact a drug like Afrezza can have on someone.
This is where the impact of social media is so critical for growth.
Even better, a company like MannKind doesn't pay a dime for this marketing. If the product changes someone's life, well, they are going to tell the world about it.
And the world isn't just local anymore. It's world wide and those people can be reached with the push of a button and a couple of hashtags.
Patients drive decisions these days. They are more educated and pharma companies invest a lot in digital advertising to increase visibility.
What is Afrezza?
Afrezza is a man-made rapid-acting inhaled insulin breathed in through your lungs and is used to control high blood sugar in adults with diabetes.
This isn't a promotion for Afrezza. However, it is apparent that the medication is very different than what patients have had access to in the past and many of them have taken to social media to preach the change it has made in their lives.
Only time will tell, but from early indications, it appears Afrezza is a hit with patients.