Despite a troubled economy and tight travel budgets, more than 700 attendees came together to address industry challenges and share best practices at the Fifth Annual Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum, held March 30-31 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The conference, co-organized by Medical Meetings and the Center for Business Intelligence, opened with a keynote address from Joseph D. Palo, adviser in PricewaterhouseCoopers' Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industry Group, who discussed the future of pharmaceutical marketing and what it means for meetings.

With the cost of bringing a new drug to market reaching $1 billion, finding a profitable sales-and-marketing model has become increasingly critical, Palo said. While the global pharma industry is expected to nearly triple in value by 2020, much of that growth will be in developing countries. Markets in Europe and the U.S. are expected to shrink, in part because of the large percentage of generic drugs sold. Other challenges, Palo said, are the lengthy and expensive research and development process, the relatively small percentage of drugs that receive FDA approval, and the comparably short amount of time drug companies have to sell approved drugs before patents run out.

The result is a “broken” marketing model, he said, where getting a premium price for a drug is essential to recovering the initial investment. In addition, just 3.5 percent of sales and marketing spend is allocated to meetings, said Palo, with the majority going to samples, detailing (face-to-face sales activities), and unmonitored promotions.

But innovations in technology are shifting the way pharmaceutical companies go to market. According PwC research, the healthcare system is beginning to focus less on developing drugs to treat disease and more on specialty products, which can change the underlying nature of the disease.

In turn, companies will rely more on education and smaller, highly skilled sales forces to promote drugs. The result: a greater need for educational meetings to train sales reps as well as bring thought leaders together to discuss how these products will be used.

The take-aways for meetings professionals:

  • an increase in pharma companies collaborating with payers on the types of products they develop;

  • multiple smaller product launches taking the place of large launches;

  • more smaller pharmaceutical companies bringing drugs to market;

  • multi-country launches planned in shorter succession; and

  • increased development of highly specialized and targeted pharmaceuticals driving a need for more training meetings for physicians and sales forces.

The Sixth Annual Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum is scheduled for March 15-16, 2010, in Philadelphia.

New Mass. Rules for Pharma

Pharmaceutical meeting professionals are watching closely Massachusetts' new Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturer Code of Conduct, which takes effect on July 1. The regulations are considered the toughest pharmaceutical marketing rules in the country and have far-reaching ramifications for healthcare meetings.

The code regulates interactions between drug and medical device companies and healthcare practitioners, placing restrictions on meeting venues, gifts, meals, and entertainment. It also requires companies to disclose any gifts or payments worth $50 or more to healthcare practitioners.

The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau has information on the new regulations and compliance strategies at