Monday, March 30, 2009
Pharma, CME-A Piece of the Doctor's Mind and Time
What’s happening is that pharmaceutical companies are realizing there are other ways to reach the doctor instead on the door of a doctor who just doesn’t want to talk to you.
Peter H. Nalen, President of Compass Healthcare Communications, an online drug marketer, Princeton, New Jersey
I read in the March 30 AMA News “Doctors Increasingly Close Doors to Drug Reps, While Pharma Cuts Ranks,” that 33% to 46% % of doctors are turning away drug reps, that this percent jumps to 52% for health systems, and that a third of medical schools require drug reps to have appointments before seeing faculty members or residents.
Consequently, drug companies have cut numbers of drug reps from 102,000 to 92,000. The main complaint of doctors is they simply don’t have time to talk to detail people.
So how are drug firms going to get a piece of the doctor’s mind and time? As editor-in-chief of Physician Practice Options, a monthly newsletter devoted to practice management and innovation supported by drug firms, and as author of Innovation-Driven Health Care (Jones and Bartlett, 2007), 4000 copies of which were purchased and distributed by a leading pharma company, and Obama, Doctors, and Health Care (now in publication process), I have a few thoughts on what works and doesn’t work.
1) In these hard times, many doctors still appreciate having free samples to distribute to needy patients who could not afford to fill a prescription. This practice has its ups and downs, but will continue.
2) Some doctors welcome pharma-supported value-added services, such as pragmatic practice-management or coding advice, delivered in print or online by seasoned consultants.
3) Talks at hospital staff meetings or drug-sponsored symposia seem to waning in popularity because of perceived lack of objectivity by speakers.
4) Booths and exhibits at local, regional, and state medical societies continue but may be of limited value because of limited and short exposure to doctors and lack of time to explore details of a product.
5) Social networking sites at Sermon and Medscape gives doctors practical contextual advice from doctor to doctor about effect and adverse side effects of drugs, but is of limited value as promotional vehicle for pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, pharma firms are chief financial supporters of these networks
6) Uptoday.com is preferred by many doctors because of its faculty of 4000 and objective evaluations. A trusted, unbiased source of medical information for both patients and doctors.
7) The Internet in general, and firms like Compass Healthcare Marketing, which as great sources of information and marketing of drugs, and are valuable in their own right but of limited value for drug firms because of tremendous dilutional effect of Internet.
8) Physician Dispensing in the Office, by companies like Physicians Total Care, Inc, and AllScripts, Inc, may become more common because they provide physicians an extra source of revenue to prop up low margin practices.
Beyond these thoughts, it is important to keep in mind that over the last thirty years, many of the most important innovations in American medicine have come from the pharmaceutical industry. These include: ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II inhibitors, statins, proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers, SSRI inhibitors and non-SSRI antidepressants, and more recently the rapidly emerging biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies targeting cancer, other diseases, and personalized drugs designed to fit a person’s DNA.