Pharma

Physician satisfaction takes center of pharma’s new drug marketing practices

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) isn’t the only big drug company overhauling how pharmaceutical sales representatives talk to doctors. Others are now adapting with new sales practices. GlaxoSmithKline last year made waves when it implemented a new sales model that rewarded sales representatives for their knowledge of GSK drugs and their ability to communicate that knowledge to physicians. […]

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) isn’t the only big drug company overhauling how pharmaceutical sales representatives talk to doctors. Others are now adapting with new sales practices.

GlaxoSmithKline last year made waves when it implemented a new sales model that rewarded sales representatives for their knowledge of GSK drugs and their ability to communicate that knowledge to physicians. The old practice of tying compensation solely to a drug sales revolved entirely on financial incentive. GSK pharma reps are now evaluated on a range of criteria that even includes feedback from physicians.

Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) takes center stage in a Wall Street Journal story that follows a pharma sales rep on her visits to doctors in Greensboro, North Carolina. WSJ reporter Jonathan D. Rockoff writes that Lilly sales representative Michaelene Greenly provided a doctor samples of a Lilly neuroscience drug, a small lunch, and finally, a chance to order diagrams of how the brain works. But Greenly didn’t launch into a sales pitch about the drug’s benefits, nor did she ask the doctor to write more prescriptions.

“Increasing physician satisfaction, it turns out, is a much better way to promote a pharmaceutical agent than simply telling them to write more prescriptions or what the benefits” are, David Ricks, president of Lilly’s global business unit, told Rockoff.

Looks like the hard, scripted drug pitch has fallen away faster than the sales of an off-patent blockbuster drug. The pharmaceutical sales model is changing. And if big pharma didn’t make changes, then the market would force changes on them. Pharmas have increasingly come under fire for sales practices that included hard sells to doctors to prescribe drugs for unapproved indications, all in the name of boosting sales. The new practices from GSK and Lilly are making headway in changing both practice and perception of drug sales.

But bigger pharmaceutical marketing changes are forthcoming. Consider Pozen (NASDAQ:POZN), a small drug company that has two approved products marketed by large pharmaceutical partners via traditional marketing methods.  The Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based company is preparing to commercialize its third product, a cardiovascular drug. The company last summer formed a digital advisory board whose members may not boast any drug experience but bring to the table a record in digital media and online marketing. When the drug is ready for market, Pozen plans a digital marketing strategy.

Pozen Chief Commercial Officer Liz Cermak, whose experience includes work at Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), has repeatedly said that the digital strategy will reach patients and physicians in the digital manner that they prefer. The old pharma rep sales model is dead. But now pharma companies large and small are trying to bring it a new life.