Web Watch

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The ePharma Summit meeting in Philadelphia at the end of January confirmed just how hot the online health market is right now.

Most of the presenters were upbeat about how things are going now as well as how e-marketing has matured in the past few years. Program chairman Paul Ivans pointed out there are now174 million US consumers using the Internet and 70%-80% of these people have searched for health information online. Ivans presented additional information from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that demonstrates how Web health seekers are benefiting from acting on the info they find online.

But there appears to be some questions about how many pharma marketing dollars are actually being spent on e-marketing and what this represents compared to overall marketing budgets. Some estimates suggest e-marketing represents as little as 2.6% of total pharma media spending but this figure is a little out of date. The pharma and device industry could really use better information about e-marketing spending levels so they can adjust their media mix as e-marketing efficiencies surface. It doesn't serve the online industry well when pharmaceutical marketing executives may be using a bogus e-marketing investment number of 3% to 4% of the total budget if the actual numbers are much higher.

According to a recent study by BIGresearch, pharma companies are still not investing in Internet ads as much as the research says they should. In this study 15,000 consumers were asked which media most influenced their Rx or OTC medicine  purchase decisions. The Internet was mentioned by 10.6% of the respondents suggesting even if pharma e-marketing budgets double, the online investment wouldn't be enough to reflect the Internet's influence on their customers.

Dan McKillen is president of the HealthDay news service

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