SOURCE: Nielsen BuzzMetrics

May 02, 2006 10:00 ET

Pre-Launch Internet Buzz for New Drugs Can Lead to Greater Online Awareness, Nielsen BuzzMetrics Finds

Free May 9 Webinar Examines the Impact of Internet "Buzz" on the Health, Pharmaceutical Industries

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 2, 2006 --New drugs that create even small amounts of online discussion among consumers before they're approved by federal regulators often enjoy greater awareness and online "buzz" after they have been released to the market, according to an analysis by Nielsen BuzzMetrics.

By tracking pre- and post-approval buzz of four new drugs, Nielsen BuzzMetrics' Healthcare Practice found that new drug therapies that generated even small amounts of pre-approval buzz enjoyed a comparatively large and sustained increase in discussion among relevant communities once the drugs were approved for use among the general population.

In the cases examined, this phenomenon held true for drugs whose therapeutic value is not considered a great improvement over existing drugs for the same illnesses.

"Brands that achieve preliminary buzz in relevant online communities tend to achieve greater momentum once the drug is approved," said Lydia Worthington, Vice President of Client Services and Healthcare Practice Leader for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, and chief author of the study. "While there are many factors that ultimately influence overall buzz and engagement, pharmaceutical marketers would be wise to consider investing in pre-launch initiatives that get patients talking and consequently primed for post-approval launch and marketing activities."

Nielsen BuzzMetrics, the global measurement standard for consumer-generated media, helps companies promote and protect their brands by analyzing word-of-mouth behavior in online consumer discussions, boards, forums, Usenet newsgroups, review sites, blogs and other data sources.

"However, early buzz is not a risk-free proposition," said Worthington. "Even small amounts of negative buzz or consumer concern can travel quickly across the Internet, where they can influence the marketplace and regulators, in some cases leading to drug-approval delays and requests for more testing."


For this study, Nielsen BuzzMetrics collected, measured and analyzed thousands of word-of-mouth discussions in online patient communities about four drugs. Discussions were monitored for six months before FDA approval and four months afterward. The drugs were Abraxane and Tarceva, both cancer-fighting drugs; Tysabri, for treating multiple sclerosis (voluntarily suspended from the market in October 2005 to undergo further study), and Byetta, a drug that controls blood sugar levels.

Key Findings:

--  Abraxane, a promising breast cancer drug with fewer side effects than
    existing treatments, captured less than 2% of online buzz for one month
    before approval and rose to only 4% of online discussion four months after
--  By comparison, Tarceva, a second- or third-tier lung cancer treatment
    for patients in whom chemotherapy has not worked, captured sustained 2%
    discussion levels for six months leading up to approval and jumped to 16%
    levels of online awareness in the four months after approval.
--  Discussion about Byetta was less than 1% in the pre-approval phase and
    rose to only 4% of all online discussion three months after approval.
--  Discussion about Tysabri, a promising MS drug, jumped from 4% six
    months before approval to nearly 15% immediately before approval, and was
    on its way to 20% discussion levels post-approval before it was pulled from
    the market.
Worthington pointed out that buzz about the promising drugs Abraxane and Byetta was overshadowed by simultaneously occurring online discussions about competing treatments.

Worthington will lead a one-hour Nielsen BuzzMetrics webinar titled, "Health Care on the Internet: Trends, Topics, Tipping Points," about consumer-generated media and its impact on the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries at 4 p.m. EDT May 9. To register, visit She also discusses health-pharmaceutical topics at the Pharmometer blog (link:

The report can be downloaded at the Nielsen BuzzMetrics Web site:

About Nielsen BuzzMetrics

The Nielsen BuzzMetrics service, marketed by BuzzMetrics, Inc., is the global standard in measuring consumer-generated media and word of mouth. Nielsen BuzzMetrics helps more than 100 leading global companies strategically leverage the buzz surrounding them -- clients like Canon, Comcast, Ford, General Motors, HBO, Kraft, Microsoft, Nokia, P&G, Sony, Target and Toyota, as well as 14 of the top 15 pharmaceutical concerns. The company has offices in New York, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Israel.

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