Trends in Pharma Marketing: Re-Packaging Old Drugs

For many companies, marketing is no longer about mass distribution. It’s about tracking micro trends and reaching out to smaller, more niche demographics.  Nowadays, the marketing messages we receive are based on very specific criteria, like age, occupation, income level, and the last item we searched for on Google.

So why does Big Pharma rely on out-dated techniques? Many industry giants still use the “door-to-door” approach where reps hand out starter samples to doctors, and television campaigns urge a wide spectrum of viewers to “ask their doctor” for new drug prescriptions.

However, smaller pharmaceutical companies are finding ways to stay ahead of the marketing curve by creating needs, rather than just responding to them. They are targeting those specific, niche demographics so important to digital-age marketing. One way start-ups are coming out on top, is by innovating new delivery systems for already-approved products. This week, we profile two pharma companies who are focusing clinical research on helping patients engage with drugs in new, more efficient ways.

Alexza Pharmaceuticals: As Easy As Breathing

The American company Alezxa has invented a new aerosol delivery system that can be used to administer a range of approved drugs, some of which have been on the market for over 35 years.

The new system, called Staccato, has garnered enough interest to generate a $235 million development contract with Teva Pharmaceuticals.Teva will oversee any further testing and pharmaceutical quality control measures as it prepares to release Staccato for sale across the US next year. The areosol system represents a brand new platform for administering and combining drugs – one that makes taking medicine as easy as breathing

NuPathe: Putting a Patch on Migraines

Like their name suggests, NuPathe is focused on developing alternate routes of medicine delivery. Most recently, they have found a way to deliver migraine pain relief through mild electrical stimulation of the skin’s surface. The patch, known as Zecuity, transports medicine through the skin in what is sometimes called an injection without a needle. Approved by the FDA in January 2013, Zecuity delivers an old drug – sumatriptan – to treat acute cases of migraine: a tried and tested medicine re-packaged in a more effective delivery system. 16 million Americans suffer from migraines, and nearly half of them avoid oral medications because of nausea. Zecuity’s ability to by-pass the stomach and relieve pain is a legitimate game-changer for patients immobilized by migraines.

Students currently enrolled in pharmaceutical courses could ultimately find themselves working for companies like Alexza and NuPathe, whose sole focus is innovating new ways for consumers to engage with old drugs.


Do you think new drug delivery systems represent genuine advancement, or are they merely a clever marketing ploy?


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