Consumers want unbranded sites, despite FDA warnings

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Despite recent FDA missives regarding pharma-sponsored educational sites, consumers want condition awareness information from drugmakers, including a link to the brand, a Manhattan Research study found.

Monique Levy, research director at Manhattan Research, said that consumers see value in practical tools like financial assistance and specialist locators on unbranded educational sites.  "Very few consumers mistrust these sites," said Levy. "They like to use condition-oriented content through various points of the disease continuum."

FDA recently issued a warning letter to Novartis and an untitled letter to GSK over educational sites it considered deceptively promotional. In the Novartis warning letter, DDMAC cited (among several other things) a link to a separate website containing a discussion of Novartis' Gleevec as a treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia. "FDA is trying to protect consumers by putting up these barriers, but consumers just want to get information," said Levy. "One of things consumers want to see on these sites is a link to the brand that treats the condition."

Disease category and product situation are two key variables in how successful an unbranded website might be, but "under the right circumstances, this type of investment can support lead generation, relationship marketing, and awareness and education initiatives," said Maureen Malloy, healthcare marketing analyst at Manhattan Research and lead author of the report, in a statement. 

"The challenge will be for pharmas to decide what kinds of risks they want to take," said Levy.

The report, titled "Unbranded Websites," draws from a Q4 2009 survey among 6,575 adults aged 18 years and older, according to a statement.

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