Although until recently every second drug bought in Polish pharmacies was produced by Polish manufacturers, today this number is only one third. The share of the domestic pharmaceutical industry is decreasing, and the import of medicines, dietary supplements and medical devices to Poland has significantly increased in recent years. This is a great opportunity for foreign manufacturers. Do you want to conquer the Polish pharmaceutical market? Here is everything you need to know about public relations in the pharmaceutical industry in Poland – advice from a Polish PR agency.
Table of contents:
- Do you really need PR activities?
- Which companies and brands belong to the pharmaceutical industry?
- Main areas of PR in the pharmaceutical industry
- End customers
Do you really need PR activities?
The pharmaceutical industry in Poland is developing very dynamically. Poles spend more and more money on medicines and dietary supplements. According to the assessment of the World Health Organization (WHO), in the next few years the growth of turnovers of pharmaceutical companies will amount to about 10% annually. There are many reasons for this phenomenon – on the one hand the health awareness of Poles and their affluence is growing; Poles want not only to treat illnesses, but also to prevent them with the help of supplements. On the other hand, the Polish society, like most Western societies, is ageing. The demand for pharmaceuticals and healthcare is therefore growing. Not surprisingly, competition in the pharmaceutical market in Poland is intense. Today, next to the automotive, cosmetics and telecommunications industries, the pharmaceutical sector is one of the most active in the field of public relations.
Mere advertising of medicines is no longer enough. Firstly, advertising messages are strictly regulated by law, while many PR activities are already allowed. Secondly, the promotion of pharmaceutical products should move away from classic product marketing. The basis of the campaign should be education: information content about new drugs, ingredients or technologies available on the market. Short advertising formats focused on sales cannot cope with this task. This is where public relations comes in.
Which companies and brands belong to the pharmaceutical industry?
Here are some of the most important examples:
- manufacturers and distributors of non-prescription (OTC) medicines – manufacturers of vitamins, painkillers, herbal preparations, and all non-prescription medicines,
- manufacturers and distributors of food supplements,
- manufacturers and distributors of medical devices – that is, everything that supports diagnosis and treatment (e.g. medical instruments, hygiene accessories, diagnostic tools for doctors and patients),
- manufacturers and distributors of prescription (RX) medicines – however, it is worth knowing that the promotion of prescription drugs is strictly regulated in Poland.
Main areas of PR in the pharmaceutical industry
If we want our PR activities in the pharmaceutical industry to be effective, we should operate on several tracks, directing separate messages to:
- end customers,
- the media.
Each of these areas requires a completely different approach. What’s more, each is governed by slightly different laws, restrictions and limitations. What should you know about each?
End customers are health consumers – one of the most important target groups to which we should direct our PR activities. It is public relations activities that help Poles learn about new pharmaceutical brands, new drugs, substances or the effects of technology. And it is their purchasing decisions that determine the sales of a pharmaceutical brand.
Polish law prohibits the advertising of prescription-only medicines. With regard to OTC medicines, messages to consumers in Poland should comply with conditions:
- The message must not present the indirect or direct benefits of using the medicine.
- Medicines cannot be promoted by well-known persons.
- Content cannot be directed to children.
- The authority of doctors or pharmacists cannot be used in promotional content.
All advertisements for medicines must also take into account the information contained in the SmPC (Summary of Product Characteristics) and the SmPI (Summary of Product Information).
Clear packaging and facilities
One of the key elements of public relations is the appearance and convenience of product packaging. Manufacturers of pharmaceutical products must be particularly careful here. The law on information prints and package labelling (Polish law, but also EU law, e.g. on protecting drug packages against counterfeiting) must be observed. It is also worth investing in internal tests of the legibility of packaging and leaflets to ensure that Polish customers can easily find and understand the necessary information. It is also necessary to use facilities for the blind and visually impaired by labelling drug packaging in Braille.
The main purpose of PR activities aimed at direct consumers should be to raise brand awareness. This involves increasing the knowledge of Poles about health and how to take care of it. It is therefore worth systematically and consciously building the image of an expert. Many pharmaceutical companies decide to create a narrow specialisation in a particular area of medicine. For example, Roche, which for years has been building the image of an expert in the treatment of obesity, or Novartis, positioning itself as a specialist in oncology. The Novartis Oncology campaign “Odpowiedź masz we krwi” (“The answer is in your blood”), the aim of which was to educate Poles about the symptoms of blood and bone marrow diseases, is worth mentioning here.
Reliable information for customers
In addition to extensive pro-consumer educational campaigns, it is good to invest in systematic activities to raise Poles’ awareness of health. Publications in thematic magazines, educational brochures distributed in health centres or pharmacies are just some of the very effective PR activities in Poland. It is also worth mentioning the helplines, thanks to which customers of medicines and medical products can quickly obtain consultation on medical questions or report adverse reactions. Such a helpline is operated, for example, by Poland’s largest drug manufacturer, Polpharma.
Sponsorship of events, charities and competitions
A popular PR tool in the pharmaceutical industry in Poland are also all kinds of events and patronage of events or charity actions. Polpharma regularly gets involved in The Race regatta. PILVA joined the “Teddy Bear Rescuer” programme, in which it sponsored the purchase of teddy bears for children transported in ambulances. Novo Nordisk ran a nationwide art and literary competition “Paint your life with Novo” addressed to people with diabetes. Roche is a sponsor of the annual “Onk run”, i.e. a run supporting oncology patients and health prophylaxis. Such activities not only build a positive image, but also raise social awareness.
Communication with Polish pharmacists should be an obligatory pillar of PR activities in this industry. After all, it is in pharmacies that the moment of purchasing products occurs. According to data from 2020, there are about 59.5 thousand MSc pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in Poland. They have a huge impact on consumers – Poles trust them and are willing to follow their recommendations. Exposure of medicines in pharmacies has a huge impact on raising brand awareness and, consequently, on sales. As the data shows, the statistical pharmacist in Poland is a woman in her early 40s, with higher education and average income.
Public relations to pharmacists in Poland are regulated by:
- Code of Good Practice of the Pharmaceutical Industry,
- Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Ethics for Nonprescription Medicinal Products,
- Code of Good Practice for the Advertising of Dietary Supplements,
- Code of Medical Ethics,
- Pharmacist Code of Ethics.
It is important to know that pharmacists are exempt from the ban on PR and marketing activities for RX (prescription) medicines.
Polish pharmacists are a very active group on the Internet: they use social media, Facebook groups, industry forums and websites for pharmacists. Reaching them by means of publications in closed medical services, to which access is only granted to those who have an active PWZ (professional practice rights number), is one of the most effective public relations methods. It is also worth investing in all kinds of image-building activities on popular open pharmaceutical portals. Organising or sponsoring e-courses, trainings and educational webinars addressed to pharmacists is also growing in popularity.
Tangible contact with the brand is essential in PR activities for pharmacists. Our experience shows that nothing builds brand and manufacturer awareness (and later pharmacist loyalty) more than direct mailings to pharmacies. Such packages should be personalised and sent periodically. However, one should be careful here. Polish pharmacists do not like pushy marketing activities, so they must feel that participation in brand activities is voluntary. One example of such direct PR activities are shipments of the Polish company Synoptis Pharma – the manufacturer of, among others, APTEO brand. The brand is systematically building a base of trusted pharmacists and its corporate website even has a tab dedicated to pharmacists, where, among other things, it shares with them reports with the latest research results.
Doctors, like pharmacists, are not subject to the ban on advertising and PR for prescription medicines in Poland. However, advertising materials must comply with certain criteria:
- They must contain documents on the basis of which the doctor will be able to assess the therapeutic value of the drug.
- Doctors cannot be promised material benefits, gifts, prizes, trips or free training in exchange for further promotion of medicines.
- Promotion of products can only take place outside of doctors’ working hours, and with the permission of the head of the facility where they work.
Advertising and PR activities for medicines targeting doctors in Poland are subject to, among others:
- The Act on Reimbursement of Medicines, Foodstuffs for Special Nutritional Purposes and Medical Devices,
- The Law on Medical Devices,
- The Act on health care services financed from public funds.
The most popular (and also the cheapest) PR strategy in the pharmaceutical industry aimed at doctors is creating the image of an expert and a partner for doctors in the fight against their patients’ diseases. Pharmaceutical brands in Poland are eager to produce, for example, information brochures and magazines dedicated to the medical community. It is also popular to organise training for doctors and nurses on modern treatment methods, technologies, tests or substances contained in medicines. Such activities are not directly focused on marketing, but on sharing factual knowledge with the medical community. An example of this is Novo, which periodically organises training for Polish nurses in the care of patients with diabetes.
Medical symposia and conferences
Prestigious, substantive medical conferences, inviting the most eminent Polish and foreign experts, organising conferences with doctors as speakers – these are just some of the common and highly effective PR activities carried out on a large scale by the majority of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors on the Polish market. Sometimes the brand’s role is limited to merely sponsoring an event or one or more sponsored sessions woven into panels. One of the largest events of the medical community in Poland is the international Top Medical Trends trade fair, whose partners include the largest pharmaceutical companies, such as Berlin-Cheme Menarini, Biofarm, Pfeizer, Bausch Health, KRKA or Sandoz.
Media relations is one of the key components of PR. It is no different for public relations in the pharmaceutical industry in Poland. Journalists in Poland do not have particularly easy access to information on drug manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and their mutual relations. Therefore, the aim of PR should be, above all, to provide journalists with objective information about the brand’s activities in the most transparent way possible. In Poland, the group of journalists dealing with health issues is growing steadily – the growing demand for knowledge in the field of medicine is attracting more and more readers. It is therefore worth treating media representatives as advocates for a common goal. It is better to abandon product-focused activities and instead help journalists educate the public.
The most important legal regulations from a PR perspective for the pharmaceutical industry include:
- Chapter “Advertising of medicinal products” in the Pharmaceutical Law,
- Regulation of the Minister of Health on the advertising of medicinal products,
- Press Law,
- The Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting.
In Poland, almost every title of the colour press (addressed both to women and men), daily or weekly magazine has its own section dedicated to health. The number of popular magazines specialising in health is also increasing (e.g. “Moje zdrowie”, “Vita”, “Zdrowie”, “Samo Zdrowie”, “Dbam o zdrowie” or “Jestem”). This gives a wide range of possibilities for PR experts who deal with the communication of medicines, supplements or medical devices. Sponsored articles are a powerful weapon and an opportunity to get the message about a brand across on a really large scale. However, it is important to put the product itself in the background and focus on educating readers in the long term. Only knowledge about health problems and their prevention or ways to cope with them is able to build in customers the awareness of the existence of specific pharmaceutical products.
Resignation of sampling
Media relations in the pharmaceutical industry in Poland is significantly different from the activities undertaken, for example, in the quite similar cosmetics sector. It is difficult to talk here about creative PR packages, drug sampling attached to press releases or exciting events for journalists. The greatest value for journalists in the medical industry is knowledge – and this is what we should focus on above all else. It’s worth knowing that most journalists specialising in this field are passionate about news, technology and research, and a large number of them have medical degrees. A catchy, factual press release will work much better than a free packet of allergy medication.
Running public relations for a pharmaceutical company or brand in Poland requires a great deal of knowledge – not only about the specifics of Polish consumers, media, doctors or pharmacists, but also knowledge of the law. If you are looking for a Polish PR agency which has experience in running PR campaigns for foreign brands in the pharmaceutical industry, be sure to write to us. Our experts will be happy to discuss your expectations!