Cipla Looks At Digital Media For Expanding Footprint And Reach Customers

The home grown drug maker is using the targeting power of digital media to create small patient communities, focusing on the diseases served by its brands. In the process it is getting around old restrictive marketing rules for medicines and beating a direct path to the consumer, hoping to expand its circle of patients and influence.

After a sustained campaign around asthma, Cipla is now focusing on prostate gland disorder, advertising its expertise in the area and targeting 50-plus males in the campaign. Such efforts help expand the market by getting previously undiagnosed individuals into its fold, the company believes.

Nikhil Chopra, India Business Head of Cipla said, “Compared to the number of people showing debilitating symptoms of the problem, awareness and diagnosis is limited to just about 10-15 per cent of those affected. People tend to ‘normalise’ the symptoms by attributing them to increasing age, cold weather, stress, travel etc.”

By focusing on the diagnosis of the ailment, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), Cipla expects to push up its share of market. According to Chopra, Cipla is the leader in the urology market in India with a share of 25 per cent. “BPH is a Rs 1,247 crore market in the country and indicates a significant potential for better engagement with patients to foster improved diagnosis, better treatment and most importantly, a better quality of life,” he said.

Cipla has set up an online platform called ‘What a Relief’ with all the tools required to diagnose and deal with the ailment, even offering patients a guide for necessary facilities. The campaign for prostate ailments draws significantly from an earlier campaign for respiratory health, a segment where Cipla is the market leader with a 34 per cent share. According to industry experts, the company is left with limited options to grow its sales in these segments unless the market itself grows and hence the strategy.

Speaking to Business Standard earlier, Umang Vohra, MD and Global CEO of Cipla had pointed out, “There are an estimated 90 million patients with respiratory illnesses in India of whom only 30 million are diagnosed. Less than 10 million actually get proper treatment.” The Cipla campaign aimed to boost the detection rates of respiratory illnesses.

The campaign called ‘Berok Zindagi’ (Life unstoppable) sought to dispel myths around asthma and other respiratory illnesses and had actor Priyanka Chopra as brand ambassador. Did the campaign help? Data culled from market research firm AIOCD AWACS shows that Cipla’s market share in the segment in the domestic market remained more or less static but almost all leading respiratory therapy drugs clocked growth in an already crowded market.

The ongoing ‘What a Relief’ campaign does not work with a celebrity-actor and instead engages with patients and doctors directly. For example, it helps users track their BPH score and provides information on access to the nearest urologist from a network of 2,600 specialists. One of its urology brands, the Urimax Dx 30 tablet packs will have BPH score sheet inserts to continuously monitor the severity of the ailment. The digital outreach programme dovetailing to the platform is expected to reach around 20 million consumers and caregivers.

A pharma analyst who closely tracks Cipla said that marketing costs are high in branded generics (cost of a medical representative, doctor access as well as trade costs). “Companies accrue marketing costs to the tune of 50-70 per cent of a medicine’s maximum retail price (MRP). In therapies where drug firms already have leadership, roping in an expensive brand ambassador only adds to costs. The ‘What a Relief’ campaign is clearly designed from the learnings the company has had from its asthma campaign,” he said. – Business Standard

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