Script in hand, Boomer women sleep on it, ask friends before filling

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Forty-four percent of women research prescribed drugs using multiple sources before filling a script, a survey found, suggesting that marketing efforts targeting Baby Boomer women, in particular, must focus less on brand awareness and more on the post-script conversation.

The survey, by agency GSW Worldwide's Pink Tank unit, which focuses on women's health, identified a subset of Boomer women, dubbed “Ka-Boomers,” less trusting of medical authority, deeply skeptical of DTC advertising and inclined to research the drugs they're prescribed, weighing benefits against cost and, in particular, potential side effects.

“What was really surprising was what happened after they left the doctor's office with script in hand,” said Gretchen Goffe-Wagner, SVP, brand planner at Pink Tank. “Half of them didn't go straight to the pharmacy. They went online to weigh the pros and cons, and what they're really looking for is: Do I feel comfortable committing to taking this?”

The good news for pharmas is that Boomers are taking more drugs than seniors did 10 years ago, and fully 59% of survey respondents said they often ask doctors about new drugs — but then, even if the drug is prescribed, they rest on it.

“If you look at the ‘pig in the pipeline,' the Boomer population, it's enormous and they've had a tendency to change every major life event they've aged into,” says Wagner. “So, now they're aging in to the higher healthcare consumption years and while they're consuming more prescriptions than people their age were 10 years ago. They're also less enamored with needing those prescriptions, and so they have a much higher standard for making decisions on what else they might take, and they're going back and questioning even what they are taking."

Marketers must rethink what constitutes the “point of sale,” the agency argues, to extend before and after the appointment.

Ka-Boomers, the survey found, rely on “composite decision making,” consulting multiple sources and talking to close-knit networks of friends online and off. Thirty-two percent said they research drugs online before filling, while 10% consider the cost and 2% ask friends or family.

“This group tends to challenge authority more and when trust is low, you look to validate what you heard online – what the doctor told you, what your friend said,” said Wagner. “Just as new moms create these networks where friends share tips and experiences, they're emailing a close group of friends very frequently. It's a steady hum of information exchange among these closely-knit groups where there's a lot of trust.”

They also consult, in order of influence, medical websites like WebMD, articles online from trusted media outlets, online patient reviews, blogs they trust and, lastly, company sites.

Marketers, said Wagner, need to figure out how to participate in that dialogue.

“In TV and print ads, women are listening and looking for the side effect information, so ironically, the way to gain brand credibility is to give up some of that authority and create a dialogue. Women want to know how a drug works in their body. They want videos, visuals, education about health conditions.”
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