Physicians Interactive acquires Univadis, shuffling the online medical community lineup

Competition for HCP eyeballs continues while pharma looks for its place

Physicians Interactive (PI; Reading, MA), a digital marketing provider for pharma and other clients, is acquiring Univadis, which is primarily a content-delivery platform for a large number of medical publishers, including JAMA, the Lancet, Springer Publishing and others, claiming 2.7 million subscribers worldwide. On one level the acquisition is almost trivial: PI is funded by a venture-capital arm of Merck, and so is Univadis. But on another level, the acquisition reshuffles the alignments among medical publishers, online communities and channels for pharma marketers to reach physicians.

“Like most consumers, physicians suffer from information overload,” says Brian Robinson, chief marketing and strategy officer at PI. “Our goal is to become the best provider of the most compelling content that physicians will access during their work.” On the community front, a key asset is QuantiaMD, acquired by PI earlier this year. On the content front, the Univadis acquisition brings a group of publishers together (interestingly, that network includes PDR Network, its own grouping of medical content and access to physicians—it’s not clear whether the two organizations will continue to work together or go their separate ways). PI itself brings a variety of pharma-marketing resources, including drug information, e-coupon programs, e-sampling, and Tomorrow Network, a healthcare-specific mobile advertising platform.

The eyeball competition will continue, however, Doximity, launched within the past couple years, claims over 500,000 US physicians in its online community (that service, however, does not accept pharma promotional dollars, although the company is working with pharmas on activities like clinical trial recruitment). PDR Network claims a leadership role in connecting its content and promotional channels through electronic health-record (EHR) systems used by the majority of physicians today. Older communities like Sermo (now part of WorldOne, a market research firm) and Epocrates (now owned by an EHR provider, AthenaHealth) continue to thrive.

Robinson says that a number of PI initiatives, including managing promotional content through Univadis, and connecting with EHR systems, will be worked out in coming months. Univadis' reach among other countries (specifically, the UK, France, Spain and Italy) will bring a new global perspective to the mix as well.