Millions of Americans take medications that are not effective or can cause dangerous side effects, even death, due to their genetic make-up. Genes determine how a person metabolizes many widely used drugs including heart and breast cancer treatments. While genetic tests can predict how patients will respond to these drugs (known as personalized medicine), few physicians use them in their practice. Medco Health Solutions Inc., a pharmacy benefit manager dedicated to improving medication safety for its 60 million members sees personalized medicine as the next frontier in pharmacy care.
Together, Medco’s clinical team, its public affairs department and Coyne PR embarked on a campaign to establish Medco as the industry leader in personalized medicine by raising awareness and acceptance of genetic testing among patients, physicians and insurance payers.
The campaign employed a multi-pronged approach that produced important research that identified barriers to genetic testing and a series of cutting-edge studies proving its benefits; engaged key influencers and media through educational events and partnerships; demonstrated its expertise through thought leadership editorials; highlighted business acquisitions enhancing Medco’s personalized medicine capabilities; and dramatically moved the needle in the availability of genetic test coverage for patients and recognition of their importance in patient care.
• Generate widespread media coverage to communicate Medco’s personalized medicine expertise and research
• Engage patients, physicians and health insurers to raise awareness and increase acceptance of the value of gene testing
• Position Medco’s clinicians as experts in the field of personalized medicine and related research
Target Audience Analysis
• Patients, an essential audience since genetic testing can directly affect their health
• Physicians, the primary prescribing decision makers and the experts whose opinions patients rely on most
• Employers and Health Plans, the organizations providing insurance coverage for genetic testing
While prior branding efforts helped establish Medco’s expertise in the medication safety realm, the team found that there was little recognition for the work the company was doing in the field of personalized medicine and a good deal of skepticism over the role a pharmacy benefit manager could play in promoting this emerging science.
The team set about identifying existing gaps in personalized medicine research and knowledge and, based on that analysis, developed a branded campaign to highlight those deficiencies and further the science through needed research and educational efforts. Recognizing that third party support was critical for bolstering its credibility and positioning, Medco and Coyne PR identified key influencers in the medical, scientific and business communities to collaborate on these activities.
Informed by the research, the campaign was built upon the following strategic platform:
• Brand research and educational efforts around personalized medicine
• Highlight the need for better information and knowledge in the area of personalized medicine
• Focus research and outreach efforts on genetic tests linked to widely used medications
• Leverage nationally recognized medical conferences as platforms to showcase research and build credibility among physicians and industry leaders, as well as generate media coverage
• Partner with clinical organizations and personalized medicine experts on research and promotional activities
• Engage physicians and health insurers with multi-channel communications on research findings and genetic test information
• Mobilize the research and clinical team as experts and own the conversation around the value of personalized medicine in pharmacy care
• Publicize business announcements that further Medco’s capabilities in the personalized medicine space
Formalizing its research capabilities, Medco founded the Medco Research Institute (MRI), dedicated to research efforts in the fields of personalized medicine and chronic disease treatments.
To launch the campaign, Medco partnered with the American Medical Association (AMA) on a benchmark physician survey identifying barriers to genetic testing that was presented at the leading personalized medicine conference.
Armed with the findings that physicians lacked the knowledge they needed to use gene tests, the researchers embarked on a series of studies proving the clinical and economic value of genetic testing. The MRI partnered with Mayo Clinic on a landmark study presented at the American College of Cardiology conference showing genetic tests for the commonly used heart medication warfarin reduced patient hospitalizations by one-third. Additional study announcements followed, focusing on gene testing for other common medications.
Augmenting these research efforts, the team hosted personalized medicine forums featuring MRI and third-party experts for media and key third-party influencers.
The team launched a rebranded website, medcoresearchinstitute.com, developed Clinical Briefs to communicate personalized medicine study information, and published articles and commentaries in clinical journals. To inform plan sponsor clients and their members, editorials were strategically placed in key trade journals and multi-channel client communications were employed.
Generated widespread media coverage:
• Garnered more than 1,461 stories and over 326 million media impressions, including articles in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BusinessWeek and 130 television segments in top U.S. markets
• Reached more than 11 million people through social media (173 blog posts, 900 tweets)
Raised awareness and acceptance among key stakeholders:
• 270 plan sponsor clients with approximately 11.5 million members are currently or will be covering the full cost of one or more medication-specific genetic tests as of January 1, 2011, up from 500,000 members at the start of the campaign
• A follow-up analysis showed physicians approved medication-specific genetic tests for 20,164 patients (50% of eligible patients) since the start of the campaign, compared to 1.7 to 2.3 percent of patients in the benchmark study
Positioned Medco’s clinicians as experts in the field of personalized medicine and related research:
• Over half of media stories on these personalized medicine efforts included quotes from Medco experts