Pfizer recently decided to abandon its efforts to develop medicines for heart disease and focus instead on more-profitable areas, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

It was noted that this plan saves money because Pfizer could cut jobs in R&D and presumably buy the technology it needs from biotech startups.

Also at stake, however, are traditional marketing and sales jobs.

Here’s how I see it.

Pfizer’s new focus is on biotech and other drugs that are complicated and need to be delivered or prescribed by specialists. There are fewer of these specialists than general practitioners, which means that fewer sales reps are necessary to sell to them. Also, institutional sales will become much more important. This takes advantage of the economy of scale — fewer reps are needed to service an institution than a individual medical practices.

Also, the number of patients for these treatments are measured in the hundreds of thousands versus tens of millions for patients taking anti-cholesterol pills — the market is at least an order of magnitude smaller.

Which means much less broadcast DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising is justified. After all, why waste millions to reach thousands?

All this is good news for non-traditional marketing; ie, targeted marketing, direct mail, and Internet-based marketing and especially social media marketing.

Patients, caregivers, and physicians interested in specialty drugs for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are much more active online than are Lipitor patients and general practitioners. That’s why I think Pfizer will usher in a golden age for pharma social media marketers!

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