I’d like to give a shout out to my fellow editor Christiane Truelove, editor-in-chief of Med Ad News and R&D Directions, who reported live from the Healthcare Communication & Marketing Association’s June 2009 event, The Family. She shared speaker presentations via Twitter, and my cell phone kept beeping with her tweets all morning. I felt like I was there!
Pharmaceutical marketing is changing, given the push back on promotional items and even drug samples, and Truelove shared speaker advice as they spoke. “Mario Nacinovich: mistakes made in the past, but there’s a lot to be proud of in pharma industry. Opportunity here to do responsible mkting” read one tweet. I couldn’t agree more. (Nacinovich is the president-elect of HCMA.)
One tweet should resonate with you: “Audience member points out it’s up to industry to create a more intimate relationship with the consumer.” One definite way is to start with what the patient holds in his or her hand: the package.
Packaging can help drug companies speak intimately with patients, day after day, beyond the doctor’s office or the pharmacy, in the privacy of their homes. Packaging can help deliver drugs in ways that engage the patient and keep them tuned into their regimens. Sample packaging and starter kits can provide detailed patient instructions and cues that encourage greater understanding of the condition the drug treats.
Of course, drug companies must watch what they promote in packaging and labeling. FDA issued guidance  in May on promotional labeling for prescription drugs and medical devices. “A promotional communication that conveys a deceptive net impression of the product could be misleading, even if specific individual claims or presentations are not misleading,” FDA writes.
Victor Dixon, vice president & general manager of Catalent Printed Components, reminds us that promotional labeling is generally any labeling other than the FDA-required labeling that is devised for promotion of the product. Promotional labeling may include items such as “brochures, booklets, mailing pieces,” and so on. “Our perspective is that this act will not have a material impact on the types of FDA required labeling that we manufacture. It may ultimately call into question any aspect of labeling and promotion that is not already reviewed and approved by FDA in a similar fashion to FDA-required labeling.”
As Nacinovich said, the pharma industry has a chance “to do responsible marketing.” I believe that companies can utilize packaging and labeling to communicate product information in clear language that speaks directly to patients without misleading them. Packaging reminders, too, can foster better drug adherence, which can strengthen the relationship between consumer and product.
Packaging and labeling specifically designed with the patient in mind is certainly more “intimate” than standard pharmacy-issued amber vials!
Daphne Allen, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org 
P.S. Follow us on Twitter! @daphneallen and @ChristianeTrue!