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DTC Side Effects Include a Risk of State and Federal Crackdowns

1 Jun, 2009 By: Response Contributor Response


Story Boarding vs. Story Telling


Millions of dollars in elaborate ad campaigns simply don't compare to genuine recommendations from real people who tell their stories. is a popular site for diabetes patients. From "blood sugar basics" to "insulin myth or reality," the site is both an information center and a source of inspiration. Regular people share their stories about living with diabetes in a series of short videos, which are also posted on YouTube. is owned by Sanofi-Aventis, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical and research company that produces well-known drug brands including Ambien (a sleep aid), Allegra (an allergy relief pill) and the Insulin brands Lantus and Apidra. However, aside from subtle branding, there is no hard sell on, and the people sharing their stories do not promote product.

Johnson & Johnson purchased a Web site in March 2008 that had already established itself as a social hub and resource center for children and families of children living with diabetes. (CWD) was founded by Jeff Hitchcock — he's also the editor, the Webmaster and the father of a child who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was two. In 1995, he founded CWD and, far ahead of his time, began to create an online network for kids and parents living with the disease. He sourced an expert, endocrinologist Dr. William Quick, to help answer E-mail and online questions.

One expert evolved into the Diabetes Team, now an international volunteer group of health care experts who've answered more than 18,665 CWD questions to date.


Consult Your Community is a household name for trusted, consumer-friendly health information on the Web. Users can track their symptoms, research prescription drug information and catch up on topical health-related news stories. Today, WebMD and like-minded sites, such as, and, have transformed into interactive communities of patients, physicians and health experts engaged in conversations in community forums, live chats, Q&A features, quizzes and more.

"One that I really love is Patients," says Kuzel. "They do it in such an incredible way. They ask patients who join to introduce themselves because they realize that you are not your disease; you're a person."

Champion cyclist Lance Armstrong has been a powerful advocate in the word of cancer research through his Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996 and defied a less than 50-percent chance of survival by beating the disease and returning to become the world's most successful and best-known racer. In 2008, he empowered others to do the same by creating

There are 12 Livestrong health experts, ranging from a cardiovascular surgeon to the well-known cosmetics creator Bobbi Brown. They each answer questions, write articles and blog about a variety of health topics.

"Not only are [our experts] giving authoritative advice and information, but our users also get information from the community groups and other people giving advice and opinions," says Jodi Cararas, director of content for Santa Monica, Calif.-based

It's all part of what Livestrong calls its 360-degree view: expert content, community engagement and online tools and resources to do everything from research prescription drug information to monitor daily calories and exercise activity.

With more and more people turning to online communities for health information and support, pharmaceutical companies can explore unique opportunities to connect with audiences who would best benefit from their products. Plus, there is the added benefit of valuable data inherent to direct response.

Kuzel says that marketers need to look at all of their marketing programs and to go where the conversations are happening. She contends, "If companies started doing that type of analysis across all of their programs and all of their audiences, it would help them to see how to evolve the model in a way that's good for patients, good for physicians and is also really good for their profitability as well."

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