A Study In Supporting Evidence

By Malcolm Fleschner
What do you think physicians are more interested in seeing – clinical reprints or sales brochures developed by pharmaceutical companies? As a teenager might put it: Duh. Of course doctors prefer independently generated studies to sales materials they often perceive as biased. A 1991 study by the Physicians Pharmaceutical Network confirmed this assessment, with nearly 90% of respondents rating clinical studies as helpful and 84% saying they reviewed such materials left behind by drug reps. Only 40%, however, considered company-created brochures helpful, with just 47% saying they’d later looked over the brochures.
The surveyed physicians also suggested that, by a wide margin, they preferred pharmaceutical salespeople who arrive bearing new information with appropriate data to back up their claims over reps who provide no supporting evidence for the new information. Given a choice, the doctors also indicated a preference for salespeople exhibiting a depth of scientific knowledge to reps with personable natures.
Today those figures likely have become even more pronounced as physicians who seek quality information are assailed by ever more pharmaceutical sales reps. In fact, when 2,000 physicians were surveyed about their attitudes toward drug reps in 2003, the most favorable attributes respondents mentioned included extensive product knowledge, knowledge of the complexities of their drugs, the ability to ask and answer questions about the physician’s experience with the drug and the ability to present concise information with supporting clinical studies.
As the folks at EyeForPharma (www.eyeforpharma.com) point out, the lesson from these surveys is clear: Physicians consider drug reps who provide new information and offer supporting independent evidence to be more helpful. As a result these reps are likely to gain greater access and have a more substantial effect on changing prescribing habits.
While these surveys generally were conducted across all physician specialties, experience indicates that the need for highly informed drug reps is even greater among specialists. That’s because specialists tend to be more selective about who they will see. As a result, reps who come in and start talking knowledgeably about scientific information, clinical outcomes and how the latest research is affecting treatment options – instead of just trying to move product – will grab the specialist’s attention and be more likely to be invited back.
Which is not to say you don’t want to move product. Of course that is your ultimate reason for being there. But one key difference between average reps and high achievers is the ability to take the findings of a study and translate them into benefits that arise from the use of their own product compared to that of their competition. Make that your focus and your success with all your targeted physicians should improve.