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Pharmaceutical Marketing in Russia: Legal Restrictions And Advertising Opportunities



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Promotion of pharmaceuticals is subject to regulatory restrictions in many countries. And Russia is also is no exception: additional restrictions are specified in the advertising law for drug products. Nevertheless, drug manufacturers are traditionally considered as one of the major advertisers. Please read RMAA article to learn what restrictions are imposed on the marketing of pharmaceuticals and what efficient ways exist for their promotion.

You can find more up-to-date information about the pecularities of promoting pharmaceutical brands in Russia here and here (note - Specific Features of Promotion of Pharma Brands in Russia). Additionally, our team has created a checklist for promoting medical clinics in Russia. 

First of all it is worth to say that all medications are divided into over-the counter (OTC) and prescription medications. The first ones you can easily buy without any prescriptions in a pharmacy, but the second ones require a prescription from a doctor. Furthermore, prescription medications are subject to more restrictions but they also need a promotion.

Media advertisements

Pharma companies are one of the major categories of advertisers in Russia. TV and radio are the main mass media types where medications are advertised. Medication advertisements occupy about 20% of all advertising time. Such popularity of TV with the pharma companies are explained by a wide range of target audience, as well as the traditionally high confidence in television of both advertisers and audience. While advertising budgets of print media have been greatly cut down over the past two years, television hasn’t lost its popularity with advertisers.

Please note that pharmaceutical advertising are subject to the severe regulatory restrictions. For example, prescription drug ads are banned in any mass media except specialized ones. As to OTC drugs there are a number of restrictions. In pharmaceutical advertising it is prohibited to:

Advert to non-adult

Describe specific cases of cure in advertising

Declare incidence of special diseases which people can have

Give the impression that doctor’s appointment is not needed

Guarantee the absence of side effects

Thus, the basic media advertised medications are OTC drugs such as cold-relief medicines, nutritional supplements and other simple medicines.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing is currently gaining popularity with pharma companies in Russia. It is related to both regulatory restrictions in advertising opportunities of other channels and growth in popularity of digital segment in the world on the whole.

First of all it is worth to say that it is useful for any medication to have the own website. According to clarifications of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) information about medication on the website of the manufacturing company shall not be considered as advertising. Many companies make access to information about prescription medications limited: it is only for medical and pharmaceutical staff. Besides the information about the medication clinical results and other useful scientific information about the medication are often provided on the website.

Banner advertising and social network ads are gaining popularity. Especially it is related to medications which have more-or-less well-defined target audience: for example medications for women, men or children. Pharma companies can appeal to the required audience through targeting tools.

Some companies launch digital-special projects with broad information component. For example, Nizhfarm company has created and supports the project “Between us – a magazine about women’s health”. There useful information about women’s health and childcare are placed together with information about the company’s medications.

Some companies add specialized forums for doctors and pharmaceutists on their sites. Building communications with doctors through digital channels is currently becoming a common trend on the whole. For these purposes in addition to the company’s website and medications specialized social networks can be used for doctors such as:

Such social networks are independent but they actively cooperate with pharma companies. Online-seminars are arranged, new medication use trainings are conducted; articles on drugs are discussed and various researches are performed on their bases. Also in social networks there are dozens of standard marketing activities: branding sections, e-mail newsletters, etc. For pharma companies in social networks branded mini-sites are available which may include several sections such as “About company”, “News”, “Articles”, “Concilium” etc.

Furthermore, nowadays one can cooperate with doctors through mobile apps such as “The doctor’s world” and “Mobile doctor”. Fairy wide services are represented in the apps: from detailed online information on medications, patient appointment calendar to different diagnostic capabilities.

Event-marketing and work of medical representatives

Since in pharmaceuticals industry there is an intermediate link - doctors and pharmaceutists - between manufacturers of medications and their consumers, an important part of the marketing strategy is working with them. Such work can take different forms such as:

arrangement of scientific conferences and other events (by the way, prescription drugs advertising is allowed at such events);

research performance, interviewing and questioning, the results of which can interest doctors;

online, telephone and face-to-face doctor consultations;

conducting of training events.

Meantime from the legislative position the cooperation of pharma companies shall be purely of an informative nature. In the course of work with doctors it’s forbidden to:

give money and gifts

pay for entertainment and leisure

provide samples of products to transfer patient

make agreements with doctors on drug prescriptions.

Of course, these rules are not always observed but in case of their violation one needs to be careful.

Another line of work with healthcare institutions is the dissemination of information materials or promotional products (pens, notepads, keychains, etc.) through doctors or on open access. At the same time it is forbidden to advertise prescription medications in the brochures distributed on open access.

However, the brochures themselves may not have to be promotional in nature. They can be like information sheets describing some disease and preventive measures but this brochure will have a sponsor represented by a pharma company.

Promotion of pharmaceuticals is highly regulated, but nevertheless quite a large number of tools remain at the disposal of pharmaceutical companies: these are media advertisements and digital marketing and direct work with doctors and pharmaceutists. RMAA specialists will help you to choose the most efficient combination of tools and build a marketing strategy in Russia.

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About the Author

Digital Strategist. Head of one of the project groups at RMAA. Maria started her journey in digital marketing in 2009. 

Author Maria Romanenko

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