The Quality and Safety of Plasma-Derived Products
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Holmes Report
CEO

The Quality and Safety of Plasma-Derived Products

Market research showed safety was one of the most important issues for both consumers and healthcare professionals. And more importantly for Aventis Behring, it was one of the few areas of product differentiation across a variety or their product lines.

Paul Holmes

 

“The Quality & Safety of Plasma-Derived Products… The Human Side” leveraged a key differentiating feature of Aventis Behring’s product line – company processes that enhanced the quality and safety of their therapeutics.  To convey a complicated and technical message to a mistrustful audience, we developed a comprehensive educational initiative that humanized the quality and safety messages while highlighting Aventis Behring’s work in this area.  The campaign proved to be an unqualified success, both internally and externally, for the company.

THE CHALLENGE

In the 1980s and early 1990s, more than half of people living with chronic bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, were unknowingly infected with HIV through tainted medications.  Widespread lawsuits and product recalls followed, damaging relations between the bleeding disorders community and the corporations producing their medications.  

Despite significant safety advancements in the mid-1990s, mistrust lingered and the climate remained tentative at best, hostile at worst.  Further complicating matters, the FDA issued a consent decree against our client, Aventis Behring (then called Centeon), leaving the company without product supply for extended periods of time and devastating their presence in the marketplace. 

Instead of shrinking back from these challenges, Aventis Behring maintained their sales force, focused on community support and education, and made substantial capital investments in their manufacturing processes.  

As a result, Aventis Behring became the first company in North America to develop proprietary Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to test plasma for the presence of viruses.  They were also the first to have marketed products tested using this investigational technology.  

However, until the publicity campaign was launched, no one in the industry/community seemed aware of Aventis Behring’s leadership; nor did they even appear to know that there was any difference among products in terms of quality and safety. Quality and safety of plasma products were still viewed skeptically by the medical and patient community, leaving products to be seen simply as commodities, prescribed based on supply or price.  Yet market research showed safety was one of the most important issues for both consumers and healthcare professionals.  And more importantly for Aventis Behring, it was one of the few areas of product differentiation across a variety or their product lines.

RESEARCH 

Market research was conducted via both survey of a panel of patients and focus groups with physicians and hospital pharmacists.  In addition, we spoke with thought leaders and patient advocacy groups to better understand current relationship dynamics and perceptions of industry members.  Three key points emerged:

No true corporate leader had emerged within the plasma products industry.

Quality and safety was important, but all products and companies were seen as equally good and/or bad in delivering this and therefore quality and safety were not considered in product purchasing decisions.

Mistrust permeated the industry.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

To establish Aventis/Aventis Behring as the leader in the quality, safety and testing of plasma-derived products by:

Educating key audiences about critical relevance and benefits of quality and safety (Q&S)

Convincing customers that Q&S is an urgent consideration in purchasing decisions

STRATEGIC APPROACH

To leverage Aventis Behring’s competitive advantage in Q&S, a multifaceted campaign was developed to:

Equip the sales force to sell Q&S.

Leverage scientific data to highlight Aventis Behring’s leadership approach to Q&S.

Humanize the Q&S story, thereby making it more meaningful to the community at large.

CAMPAIGN EXECUTION

In March 2000, the company launched a nationwide educational initiative targeting clinical immunologists, hematologists, hospital pharmacists, patients and families, and key third-party groups.  A series of unique collateral pieces were developed to bring the process to life in a way that would resonate throughout the community.  The pieces included:

  • A CD-ROM and the Internet’s first virtual tour on the production and quality and safety of plasma-derived products, both titled “The Human Side of Quality and Safety”;
  • A video for parents “Inspired By Your Stories…Motivated By Our Commitment to Your Health: A Guide to Understanding the Quality and Safety of Plasma-Derived Products”; and
  • Two brochures, one for healthcare professionals titled “Looking Beyond …To The Human Side of Quality and Safety of Plasma-Derived Therapies” and one for patients titled, “Inspired By Your Stories…Motivated By Our Commitment to Your Health: A Guide to Understanding the Quality and Safety of Plasma-Derived Products.”

Launched at a national sales meeting, the Q&S campaign kicked off with a humorous film-noir-style employee video that brought to life the relevance of the messages. 

While the sales force immediately began utilizing the tools directly with customers, Belsito & Company began to leverage the significant amounts of clinical data compiled under the IND for PCR.  In addition to promoting poster presentations at key medical meetings (e.g., American Society of Hematology), Belsito & Company promoted a presentation to the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee, which resulted in coverage in mainstream media (e.g., wire services) and throughout the plasma-products industry (medical trade and community publications).  The clinical data were also publicized beyond the immediate presentations by continually leveraging all aspects of the comprehensive educational campaign.  Additional, and ongoing, activities include: 

Tailored grass roots outreach to local hemophilia and immune deficiency organizations, hospitals, group purchasing organizations and treatment centers around the country. 

Physician, pharmacist and patient tours of the manufacturing facilities.  To date, there have been 20 tours providing a first-hand look at Aventis Behring’s quality and safety process.

Development of a professional and patient advocate slide kit.  Presentations utilizing this kit have been conducted at major medical meetings (e.g., AAAAI, ASH, ACCP, ASHP) as well as more than 100 dinner, community and state pharmacy meetings.  

Five special events for healthcare professionals hosted at key medical meetings.  Unique locations and entertainment (e.g., Liberace’s Mansion in Las Vegas featuring performances by Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Liberace himself) attracted participants.  And the Q&S story was clearly communicated via a maze of educational kiosks and a presentation by a thought leader.  These events have allowed Aventis Behring to develop a database of almost 1000 healthcare professionals and provided unique follow-up opportunities for their sales force.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS

The business results of the Q&S campaign were felt across the marketing and sales disciplines and even positively influenced the regulatory environment.

Aventis Behring became the first manufacturer to receive new product labeling highlighting their use of PCR testing.

This milestone was further leveraged by the sales force and utilized to generate additional media coverage for the company.

Directly reached nearly 3,000 key medical professionals and patient advocacy leaders.

Manufacturing tours at Aventis Behring facilities: more than 250 medical professionals and patient advocacy leaders have visited the facilities and learned first-hand about how the products are manufactured.

Slide kit presentations: more than 100 presentations have been given at medical meetings, community and state pharmacy meetings and local dinner meetings.  Attendance has ranged from 10 – 20 professionals at each gathering.

Special Events: Nearly 1,000 healthcare professionals have attended the five special events and taken the “Quality and Safety” maze tour to learn about the manufacturing processes.  Each participant has become part of a database that has provided unique follow-up opportunities for the sales force. 

Media coverage of the company’s efforts was consistently generated, increasing awareness throughout the industry/with their customers.

Industry trade publications identified as key targets: more than 4 million impressions were achieved; outlets included The Pink Sheet, Infusion, Physician’s Weekly.

Mainstream coverage: national attention was achieved through outlets that included Philadelphia Inquirer, Dow Jones and Reuters Health.

Hemophilia/primary immune deficiency community publications: both national publications (e.g., Factor Nine News) and 75% of local newsletters reported information directly to consumers/gatekeepers.

Reinvigorated by the campaign, the sales force reported new abilities to sway resistant customers.  These success stories continue and will be featured in an internal newsletter.
In November 2000, the company’s Hemophilia Business Unit achieved its first ever $50 million month, which was celebrated throughout the company. 

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