One of our favorite industry pundits is John Mack, author of Pharma Marketing News, Pharma Marketing Blog and The Pharma Blogosphere, and host of Pharma Marketing Talk. We recently asked him about his background, his readership and some current issues in pharma.
Cary: You started VirSci Pharma Marketing Network in 1997 and it has since blossomed in a number of directions — an e-mail discussion group, a newsletter, a Web site and a blog to name a few. How have you remained so passionate (and opinionated) about the pharma industry for so long?
John Mack: I was always interested in networking, people, and learning. The pharmaceutical industry is a challenge to keep up with and is more interesting to me than any other industry. After all, I started out studying biochemistry at Columbia University’s School of Physicians and Surgeons. So medicine and the mechanism of action of drugs have always been interesting topics. But I was impatient with the scientific method — I could never sequester myself in a laboratory. There’s just not enough people interaction.
I quit graduate school during the Vietnam War to work in an “underground” news service and became very much interested in journalism. As a matter of fact, I started writing newsletters when I was a teenager. So what I do now seems to combine everything I enjoy: science, technology, networking, newsletter writing, and education.
Cary: How would you characterize your readers? In what groups do they fall — Big Pharma reps, ad agencies, pharma vendors, etc? Have your audience and clients evolved over time?
John Mack: About 40 percent of the opt-in subscribers to the newsletter (Pharma Marketing News) work within life science companies (mostly brand manufacturers) and 40 percent work on the vendor/agency side. The rest are students, healthcare professionals, etc.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know much about the 80,000 or so monthly visitors to the Pharma Marketing Network Web site or the thousands who read Pharma Marketing Blog. I can say, however, that since starting the blog, many pharma people I meet at industry meetings know me and read the blog.
Cary: In all your years of sharing your opinions on the industry, is there one newsletter article, blog post or comment you’ve made that has caused the biggest controversy? If so, which one?
John Mack: There are a few. The most read and commented blog post was “Rozerem Ads Dis Lincoln, Show Beaver.” A couple that caused a lot of controversy were “The Girl from Google” and “Banned from CafePharma!”
Cary: With DTC advertising everywhere, more and more patients have decided what medications they need before they visit their doctor. Do you think this has led to overmedication? If so, what do you think should be done about it? And what other problems do you see with DTC today?
John Mack: I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if DTC is the main cause of overmedication, which I think is definitely a problem in the U.S. Advertising must play a big role in driving sales; otherwise, there wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be so much of it. But the problem with DTC and advertising in general is that it is really not educational, despite claims otherwise by PhRMA and the drug industry. What really irks me is stupid DTC campaigns that waste money and clutter the airwaves — money and bandwidth that could have been used to do effective education. The Rozerem ads are the poster boys of this deficiency in DTC.
Cary: We started eDrugSearch.com to help people find Canadian drugs online without having to deal with the spam and questionable players that, unfortunately, currently inundate the marketplace. As an expert in Internet marketing as well as pharma, what do you think of our business model? Since we’re a new business, do you have any advice for us?
John Mack: Stay under the radar of Big Pharma! They will try and shut you down if you become too big. Build up your relationship with users and give them a voice through your site to demonstrate that their concerns are mainstream.
Great advice. Thanks, John!