By: Andy Levitt
About two weeks ago, I found out that the troubling stomach aches I've been having for months were not just stomach aches. It turns out that I have Crohns Disease. I needed emergency surgery last week to remove a portion of very diseased tissue from my gut, and as I start today to move through my post-op recovery, I need to begin thinking about the ongoing, chronic treatment for my condition.
In thinking about it, I'm exactly the kind of patient drug companies want to find. (And it's not because I happen to run a word of mouth agency for pharma.) It's because the lifetime value of the cost of my therapy for a chronic condition like this is tremendous. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars over the expected duration of my treatment.
That revenue will pay for a lot of DTC ads to find more and more patients like me.
But guess what? DTC will have zero impact on which medication I select. In fact, all of the TV commercials I'll see this week as I rest on my couch will go unnoticed as I'll use my DVR to skip the ads. When I look through Cooking Light magazine in search of some low-residue recipe options, I'll ignore all of the drug advertisements that companies spent millions on just to capture my attention.
Instead, I will gather nearly all of my information from my friends, family members and acquaintances who have had personal experience with Crohns. That's where I place my trust. Isn't that where you would turn in a similar situation?
I'll seek out my wife's friend who has been a Crohn's patient for 18 years and hear what she has to say about treatment. And I'll speak to my brother in law who has had Crohns for 12 years, and learn more about what worked best for him. And I'll speak to my new friend Kate who is writing a cookbook for Crohns and colitis patients and see what tricks she's learned over the years that might benefit me. (As a side note, it's amazing how once you start speaking to people about a particular condition, a world of connections unfolds in rapid fashion!)
Some of the people I will speak to could use Remicade; others might use Humira. Still others might reject Western medicine entirely, and focus on herbal supplements, acupuncture and the like. But regardless of what they've selected for their own treatment, I can be assured that their feedback to me will be pure and authentic, with nothing to be gained by sharing their experience with me. I know they'll share their story with me because it will make them feel good about helping someone else who is hungry for information - because chances are, someone else played this same role for them years ago. I think they'll also find that by talking about their own condition, it will help them feel more in control of the disease (vs. feeling like the disease controls them!).
And by the time I see my gastroenterologist late next week, I will have done my research, will have spoken to a number of trusted sources, and will be in a position to have a well-informed conversation with him about my treatment protocol. And so much of my decision will be influenced by the wisdom of a trusted group of like-minded people.
As I've been saying for the last five years, everyone wins through conversation (well, except perhaps the TV networks, magazine publishers and other DTC stakeholders who start to feel the effect of the declining impact from Rx advertising....but you get the idea).