Rob Elliott, Marketing Director, Viatris

Rob Elliott, Marketing Director, Viatris

In this interview, Rob Elliott, Marketing Director, Viatris, sheds light on the evolving role of pharmacy during the pandemic, as well as the impact of the increased demand of the sexual health category.

What are your thoughts on how the Covid pandemic has changed the relationship between pharmacy and patient?

More than ever, the pandemic has helped bring pharmacy to the fore as a viable alternative to visiting the GP. A recent survey by PAGB found that nearly a third of people are more likely to visit a pharmacy for advice before seeking help elsewhere than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic[1].Pharmacy can provide a wide range of products and services, and now more than ever they are being trusted and accessed by the public for healthcare provision.

Pharmacies are presented with an opportunity to capitalise on this increased consumer consideration by widening their product & service offering to meet consumer needs. Pharmacy employees are likely to be approached by consumers about an array of medical conditions and lifestyle concerns and should be prepared to offer advice, treatment, and support. Considering the sexual health category specifically, from a recent study we commissioned[2], we know that 3 in 4 people that experience erection problems (EPs) are planning to visit pharmacies to obtain sexual health products. For a while now we’ve been providing pharmacies with training materials to ensure their staff feel confident to speak to people about EPs, so this is great time to expand access to meet patient needs.

How has the sexual health category in pharmacy been affected during the pandemic?

From our research, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns led to a decrease in sales across sexual health products across the category. This is explained by several studies that looked into how the pandemic affected our sex lives, including one by Rhonda Balzarini, a social psychologist and assistant professor at Texas State University[3]. Focusing on participants from 57 countries, her research found that, over the course of the pandemic, people reported increased pandemic-related stressors, including loneliness, general stress, and Covid-19-specific worries, they also reported decreased sexual desire for their partners[4].

When we look back at the restrictions that have been in place over the last 18 months, we also have to consider the fact that couples not living together weren’t able to meet, and those not in relationships weren’t able to go out dating to meet new people, so we saw a drastic decline in the number of people having sex.
Aside from that, there was a huge drop off in footfall during the early days of lockdown with limited numbers of customers being allowed into pharmacies, with the focus being on those with urgent medical needs.

That said, with restrictions relaxing, recent research that we commissioned revealed that many of us are expecting to have more sex[5], so we hope to see an increase in people visiting pharmacies to access sexual health products over the coming weeks & months.

What activity has been going on with the Viagra Connect brand?

To capitalise on the fact that we’re expecting to see an increase in people looking to buy sexual health products this summer[6], we’ve launched an impactful multi-million-pound consumer campaign which runs from July to September, including mainstream TV, video on demand, out of home advertising, and digital and social advertising, featuring the award-winning ‘Love Story’ creative. The campaign is further supported by a suite of shopper marketing materials including window posters and free-standing display units.

What are your plans moving forwards?

Viagra Connect launched as the first and original OTC EP treatment and, since then, we’ve created and built the OTC EP category. We want to ensure the category keeps growing in value which is why we continue to invest heavily in the brand and the category, so we can continue to encourage the estimated 5 million+ men in the UK who suffer from erection problems to take action.

How do you think pharmacies can best capitalise on the new normal?

As mentioned, previously, the pandemic has helped bring pharmacy to the fore as a viable alternative to visiting the GP and, now more than ever they’re being accessed by the public for their wide range of products & services.

The ‘new normal’ presents pharmacies with the opportunity to capitalise on this increased footfall by widening its product & service offering to meet consumer needs and help relieve the burden on GPs, as well as ensuring their employees are prepared to offer advice, treatment, and support to consumers.