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Executive Summary

Searle is trumpeting a "Patient Promise" refund program through professional advertising to run in the October issues of four physician journals: the Journal of the American Medical Association, American Family Physician, Post-Graduate Medicine, and Medical Economics. Introduced at a Sept. 14 press conference on Capitol Hill, the program offers full refunds to a patient for whom any Searle product has been prescribed but, "does not achieve the desired therapeutic benefits." The decision about the therapeutic benefit will be made by a patient's physician. Searle highlights Calan SR in the October ads, informing physicians of the refund offer specifically if the sustained release verapamil does not achieve desired benefits. "Your name, address, and signature on a simple form," the ad declares. "That's all it takes for you to qualify your patient for a full refund if Calan SR (verapamil HCl) does not achieve the desired therapeutic benefits. Your patient does the rest." The promotion calls the refund program "a promise no other pharmaceutical company has dared to make." Subsequent journal ads will focus on other Searle products. In addition to the professional advertising, Searle is planning institutional advertising for early 1988 that will be keyed off the "Patient Promise" program. The program was also announced in trade and professional letters mailed on Sept. 14. In Q-and-A format, Searle explains that because "only the prescribing physician knows what therapeutic goals were set, he or she is the only person who can determine whether those therapeutic goals were achieved." The company plans to offer the program "indefinitely." Searle added that physicians to not have to discontinue the therapy in order for the patient to receive the refund. "The patient may continue to take the product if that is appropriate in your medical judgment," the company said. Although "each patient is eligible for only one refund per product," the program defines different dosage strengths as different products. A patient may receive a refund for a 120-mg tablet after receiving a refund for an 80-mg tablet, Searle said. The program is not expected to involve pharmacists, Searle predicted, because "refund forms will be completed by the doctor and the patient." However, the company maintained that the program will benefit pharmacists "by helping address the problem of patients requesting refunds for unused prescription medications" and by reducing pharmacists' "need to interact with patients who request the pharmacy to refund the expense for unused medications." Searle Chairman Sheldon Gilgore, MD, called the program "a natural follow-on to Searle's program for patients in need, through which we are making $10 mil. in free hypertension medicine available to the indigent." The program of free distribution of oral Calan and Calan SR was launched last winter ("The Pink Sheet." Feb. 16, p. 3). Searle is using refund/give away campaigns, with Capitol Hill sendoffs, to try to keep its name fresh in the marketplace and to distinguish its Calan brandname in the crowded calcium channel blocker class. While Searle works on a long-term turnaround, it is using the attention-getting programs as a way to give a dynamism to the Searle name. Some industry observers estimate that Monsanto may be losing as much as $150 mil. anually while trying to turn around Searle. Sen. Hatch (R-Utah) participated in the press conference and said Searle's program demonstrates "an attitude that might well be emulated widely in the health care industry. They are demonstrating that they care about the patient's pocketbook as well as about the patient's health." Stating that the National Pharmaceutical Council "has estimated that purchasing, but failing to use, antihypertensive medicine increases the cost of treatment by as much as 100%," Hatch maintained Searle "is doing something to eliminate that kind of waste." The program will refund purchases made under Medicaid and Medicare. "Copay patients will receive a refund for the amount they paid out of pocket, while organizations or agencies which provide medication at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient will be provided refunds based on the overall national refund experience for each individual product," Searle said.

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