Putting a Band-Aid on the Meningitis Outbreak

Recently, it was reported that the New England Compounding Center (NECC) shipped contaminated batches of a steroid linked to the 19-state fungal meningitis outbreak. The outbreak strain has now infected some 395 people in the U.S. The steroid was used as an injection and given to patients who suffer from back pain. The repercussions of this outbreak are tremendous. Beyond the health implications, there are many other impacts. For some medical professionals who are in favor of FDA-approved drugs, the outbreak fuels their arguments against the use of compounds. For patients unaware of this debate in pharmaceutical products, fear has spread about the use of compounds and prescription medication as a whole.

While it may be some time before a decision is made on whether compounding pharmacies like NECC will require FDA regulation, there are actions we can take to alleviate public fear and get quality, life-saving products in the hands of patients who need them the most.  Such actions are as follows:

Educate Patients: Many people do not understand what a compounding pharmacy is, and, in the haste of trying to fill a prescription that was recommended to them by their trusted physician, take the compound without question. Patients should be encouraged to ask where their drugs are coming from, whether it’s the manufacturer or compounds. They should be provided with all relevant information regarding their prescription – ingredients, risks, side effects, etc.

Fill in patient’s lack of understanding with accurate information and they will feel more comfortable taking the medications they have been prescribed. If there is a specific compound that physicians prescribe on a routine basis to a large percentage of their patients, they should consider allocating some of their budget to creating brochures, video testimonials, and other medical marketing materials that educate patients on what the compound is and what they can expect to experience after they take it.

Encourage Transparency: While compounding pharmacies have been in business for centuries, there are patients who are unaware of the role they play in the healthcare community – to create tailor-made medication that meets specific patient needs. Whether the need is to change a tablet into a liquid for patients with difficulty swallowing, customize dosage, offset allergic reactions, or improve taste, compounders provide valuable wholly personalized pharmaceutical service. Given the ambiguous legal picture and the impact of recent events, the compounding industry would benefit from erring on the side of caution and working with the FDA to determine the fairest and most effective oversight regime. Face the regulatory challenges head on and promote your transparency, credibility, and legitimacy by advertising via online and offline channels.

The aftermath of this outbreak has understandably sparked a sense of urgency for change. Timely and smart marketing and advertising gives you, the physician or compounder, a voice and a platform to convey strategic messaging that will alleviate public fear and better position the industry as a whole. Let DDA Medical help you convey your message through a variety of medical marketing services. Contact us at 215-355-6442 or info@ddamedical.com.

photo credit: Microsoft Images