Pharma firms put spotlight on dementia

Compared with money set aside for more high-profile medical treatments, dementia is lower on the agenda, with only one third of dementia sufferers receiving treatment. Drug companies Eisai and Pfizer, with patient group Alzheimer’s Disease International, hosted the Facing Dementia forum.

Campaign Facing Dementia: Advancing Care in Europe
Client Eisai/Pfizer
PR team Edelman
Timescale January-July 2004 
Budget £280,000 (approximately)

The summit, held in Rome last June, brought together national Alzheimer's associations, people with Alzheimer's disease, carers, policy makers and journalists from across Europe. It allowed delegates to share insights and identify barriers to care, and Edelman was hired to promote the forum, research and Pfizer's dementia drug Aricept.

To motivate advocacy for improved dementia care across Europe and generate interest in covering issues affecting ageing in the media. To arm influencers with the Agenda for Change report and push for earlier diagnosis and more aggressive treatment.

Strategy and Plan
The strategy focused on identifying a reason to care about dementia and Alzheimer's disease by depicting how real people live with dementia and the existing inadequacies in levels of care.

Before the forum, Eisai and Pfizer conducted their Facing Dementia
Survey to better understand attitudes towards dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This pan-European study of 2,500 people targeted those with Alzheimer's, and doctors in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK. Edelman then invited specialists to the forum to enhance the initiative's credibility, including doctors, advocacy representatives, carers and communications experts.

People with dementia and their carers also spoke at the gathering. There, Pfizer and Edelman hosted a meeting for leading experts and Pfizer and Aricept product managers, who were presented with the survey findings, which Edelman had put together in a delegate meeting pack. It also included tips on how to work with the media.

Before the event, Edelman had also conducted an audit of European journalists to gauge awareness of, and interest in, dementia issues.

At the forum a statement called 'Agenda for Change' was issued on a pan-European newswire. Since the forum, Edelman has helped with the publication of a supplement based on the event and its findings, in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, printed in March.

Measurement and Evaluation
The event brought together 175 people from across 17 countries, including 27 journalists, and has generated coverage in 11 countries, including pieces in The Times, The Guardian, French medical trade magazine Le Quotidien du Médecin, Irish Medical News and Italian newspaper La Repubblica Salute.

At least 10,000 copies of the International Journal of Clinical Practice supplement have been printed and used by organisations, such as patient advocacy groups, to campaign for improvements in care. The campaign has helped Eisai and Pfizer develop a relationship with Alzheimer's Disease International and Alzheimer Europe, as well as facilitating consensus on the Agenda for Change within the dementia care arena. It gave delegates tools with which to implement lessons learned in their own environment.

Heather Nicholson, a former Times writer who covered the conference, said: 'The summit had sympathetic and moving case studies, plenty of experts, and the press pack was excellent.'

Richard Parkinson, chief executive of IncrediBull Ideas,
has worked on the New Born Screening and Fair Care for All campaigns for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust

The co-ordination of 17 countries along with their different interests must have been an immense challenge and congratulations should be given for this.

While it is too early to judge the results (it is part of a longer term initiative), I think there were too many objectives. Was it media relations or was it patient advocacy? I think this lack of focus showed through in terms of media coverage – I am not sure the media could see the big issue. 

The lack of creativity was a problem. The approach was methodical and covered the bases, but a survey, case studies and information pack for a pan-European conference of this size seems very basic. A more multimedia approach, along with online tools including a podcast, would have been more cost-effective for this scale of budget.

I am not sure Edelman galvanised the supporter base with a sense of purpose and a clear message – apart from just 'improving care'.
Supporters are an excellent ambassador in putting a charity's case across. Maybe more effort should have been put into this side on a local level. I don't think this event was the way to go, especially as the pharmas seem to have put a lot of money in to get very little back.

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