Primary care alive and well

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Last month, I began this column by revealing what seemed like the first piece of good news in a long time—namely, that the average paycheck in the industry had risen for the first time in three years, according to our Career & Salary Survey.

Well, this month I am happy to report more good news, at least for publishers of medical journals: the first six months of this year has seen a recovery in professional advertising spend, ranging from spectacular to ridiculous. While you could argue that this unforeseen upturn is merely the beginning of a correction of the spectacular spiraling of revenues seen in the past few years, it's still something to rejoice.

Ad spending in medical/surgical journals was up 14.3% overall from January to June, with the top 100 most advertised pharma products collectively boosting ad outlays by almost 70% and therefore adding an additional $120 million to the market. The big surprise was that multispecialty journals —almost written out in some quarters—led the charge with 29% year-on-year growth.

For many of the market-leading publications, 2010 has been a fairytale. Number one title, The New England Journal of Medicine, piled on almost 500 additional ad pages in the first half of the year, representing a massive 42% jump. And number two, the Journal of the American Medical Association, fattened up its ad page count by an unthinkable 54%. The list goes on: American Family Physician (up 46%), Monthly Prescribing Reference (up 29%) and Family Practice News (up 22%) continue the success theme.

What on earth has been going on here? Well, for starters, regardless of the arguments about the pros and cons of the value of medical journals, one thing has always been guaranteed to drive additional revenue in this sector: new products. And there have certainly been more of those than originally anticipated.

Alan Imhoff, president of IMNG Elsevier, which pulls in more advertising than any other medical publisher, believes there are other factors are at play also, such as the slow pace of evolution in professional digital media. “There is still uncertainty about how pharma can use the web to promote [brands] —particularly when it comes to things like search,” Imhoff told me. “So, I think that some monies that might have been originally earmarked for digital promotion went to print instead.”

However, Imhoff believes print still has much to offer in its own right. “All the data indicates doctors still read and get most of their information from publications and it's hard to launch a product without print,” he says. So, will the second half of the year produce more golden eggs, or just goose eggs? “The pages keep coming,” says Imhoff. “I think the second half will be even stronger than the first.”

Patients and understanding
Of course, much of the content of this issue is focused on patient marketing and patient education. Matthew Arnold spent quality time with our Pfizer cover stars, Adele Gulfo, president and general manager for US primary care, and Jim Sage, VP customer engagement (pages 38-42). One of the many interesting things he learned was how the world's biggest pharma company is tackling adherence, not just from a brand revenue perspective, but as a responsible way to keep down the nation's healthcare costs. “We touch millions of patients, and we can take costs out of the overall healthcare system,” says Gulfo. “It's an opportunity and a responsibility.”
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