New Rules Driving Increased Professionalism

By Malcolm Fleschner

According to MedZilla, an online service supporting the hiring and career needs of pharma industry professionals, two key factors are driving a shift toward increased professionalism among drug reps. The first dates back to 2002 when PhRMA, the industry trade association for about 90 large pharmaceutical companies, implemented a set of voluntary industry guidelines limiting the kinds of perks drug companies can offer to physicians.

Since then incentives, such as luxury getaways, expensive meals, front-row tickets to sporting events and outright cash awards have been verboten. Gifts cannot exceed $100 in value and must strictly help the medical practice.

The second trend identified by MedZilla is the dramatic increase in the volume of bodies populating the ranks of the pharmaceutical sales field. With so many reps coming to call, physicians simply do not have time to glad hand everyone who walks through the door. Medzilla quotes Eric Bolesh, a senior analyst at Cutting Edge Information, who notes that this situation nevertheless opens up opportunities for the consultative sales rep.

“Doctors are getting increasingly fed up with the number of reps waiting to see them,” he says. “In this situation, the best way for reps to win and retain market share is to establish a real relationship with each physician in their territory. Doctors no longer look to reps as a source of trustworthy medical information, so reps who can rekindle that kind of relationship will be miles ahead of their competitors. Reps who have been in their territories longer and are actually recognized and remembered by physicians will win more detail time than new reps. Because it can take several months to reach that point, boring as it may sound, the best way to capture market share is to present compelling clinical data that proves your drug is superior to another.”

To maximize these efforts some pharmaceutical companies are looking to develop teams of specialized sales reps. By hiring experienced reps with backgrounds in particular disease and therapeutic areas, patient populations or medicine types, the companies hope to convince physicians to turn to drug reps for medical information. The ideal, Bolesh says, would be for doctors to feel comfortable consulting reps about medical challenges, product questions and more.

Finally, Bolesh adds, today’s consultative pharma sales reps should take advantage of all possible avenues for connecting with the 21st-century physician. In practice, this means using the power of the Web to exchange information.

“E-detailing is still in its infancy,” he says, “but more and more doctors are turning to the Internet as a source of medical information. Reps who can engage doctors via the Web will be able to leverage this trend and spend a lot less time driving around to doctors’ offices.”