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Pharma’s big shift towards B2C marketing

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Japan’s pharma industry is following a global trend of shifting more towards a direct-to-consumer marketing strategy, with continued efforts to engage customers directly.

In 2022 it is estimated that pharma companies spent $8.1 billion on advertising.

Direct-to-consumer marketing (B2C) is the direct promotion of pharmaceutical products aimed at consumers as patients, rather than focusing on targeted outreach to healthcare professionals.

Think educational webinars, social media advertising, influencer marketing, health tracking apps, patient support programs and more. Innovative players in the market are changing things up and finding new avenues for marketing and distribution.

Takeda’s direct-to-consumer strategy

A notable Japanese player in the B2C space is Takeda, who spent $370.6 million in 2022 on promoting Entyvio. This is Takeda’s best selling product, bringing in $3.9 billion in 2021.

Unlike other B2C strategies which rely heavily on TV commercials, Takeda has run an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) awareness campaign. Campaigns include “Toilet Pass Campaign”, “Spill Your Guts” and “In Their Shoes” to promote videos or mobile apps that aim to help or raise awareness for people experiencing IBD, Crohn’s or colitis.

Understanding the Japanese B2C landscape

While there is huge potential for organizations looking to increase their B2C approach, this strategy is ultimately subject to government regulations.

Compared with the US, regulations around advertising pharmaceuticals are tighter in Japan. Prescription-only medication and drugs for specified diseases and regenerative medicines are prohibited. There are restrictions, but not prohibitions, around the advertising of over-the-counter medicines.

For example, there are restrictions around promoting the efficacy of drugs for diseases that cannot be expected to be cured without a medical professional’s diagnosis or treatment. Further guidelines can be found under the PMD Act and the MHLW Standards.

The growing demand for pharmaceuticals in Japan

The demand for medicine is only on the rise in Japan, due to the aging population. In 2021, Japan reported 29.1% of the population was aged 65 or older – a larger proportion than any other country. It is expected this demographic will reach one third of the population by 2036, further boosting the demand for pharmaceuticals.

It is likely that more and more companies will adopt this trend of focusing more on their B2C marketing. This shift holds potential to improve both patient outcomes and healthcare experiences for consumers. Embracing a consumer-centric approach could have a transformative impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

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