Most people who receive email messages from pharmaceutical companies tend to like it. 9 in 10 believe it’s a good way to learn about new products entering the market — nearly as many people as those who like receiving travel offers via email.

This finding comes from Epsilon‘s Email Branding Study, released in early March 2009.

Consumers see a very valuable aspect of email from pharma companies is receiving coupons to use in paying for prescription drugs, as well as learning about products. A third value of email from drug companies is receiving a source of support in personal medical care: one-half of people who receive email messages from drug companies say it helps them stay on their medications.

One key outcome from the Epsilon survey mirrors a finding from the Edelman Health Engagement Barometer: people highly value talking about prescription drugs with their doctors. Email messages from drug companies complement these dialogues, and in no way replace the bond between the patient and the physician. Intriguingly, email and Internet as sources of prescription drug information may now be preferred to in-person conversations with pharmacists based on the Epsilon data.

Email is growing as a communications channel between pharmas and consumers as traditional direct-to-consumer ad spending is declining. Data from TNS Media Intelligence, discussed in Ed Silverman’s late, great Pharmalot blog, found that spending on DTC spending in 2008 was down, following another decline in 2007. The difference between 2007 and 2008 was a cool half-billion dollars.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: A patient’s compliance with a prescription drug regimen is one of the Holy Grails for drug companies to achieve during this era of the patent cliff and few new-new drugs emerging in the market. Every patient who continues to consume prescribed drugs, and fill the prescription, bolsters company profits in this lean time. It appears that email can help to build brand loyalty to prescription drugs among a majority of people who receive these messages from pharmaceutical companies.

However, not all health consumers will want to engage via email. Drug companies who choose to implement direct-to-patient, permission-based email programs should carefully target those people who are most likely to value the online relationship: value-based health care purchasers keen for (1) couponing and (2) help with compliance and health support.

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