A Prescription For Selling To Pharmacists

By Malcolm Fleschner

There’s no question that pharmacists suffer from a lack of respect. Jerry Seinfeld famously used to refer to them as stock boys with pills. Yet as a recent article in Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine notes, pharmacists often wield significant influence over physicians’ prescribing patterns, and drug reps who ignore this fact might be missing out on significant opportunities.

So how do pharmacists sway prescribing habits, beyond the typical request for generics? According to a 2002 study conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association, community pharmacists discussed patients and their drug therapy with physicians and healthcare workers an average of 7.1 times a day. As a result of those discussions, physicians accepted the pharmacists’ prescribing recommendations 72% of the time.

Anne Burns with the American Pharmacists Association says those recommendations typically fall into the following categories.

Identifying additional medications needed. Patients who have certain disease states and take one medication often experience what are called concomitant conditions. These conditions require other medications the pharmacist may suggest.

Discussing cost factors. Many patients still pay cash for their prescriptions, and pharmacists are uniquely positioned to understand the budget challenges patients face.

Addressing overmedicated patients. Pharmacists may be able to examine patients overall regimen and suggest ways to consolidate prescriptions and save money.

Concern about drug delivery issues. If patients can’t take pills, or are allergic to a certain flavor, pharmacists may recommend alternatives.

Based on these factors, how should savvy drug reps approach influential pharmacists to increase prescribing habits for targeted products? The pharmacists profiled in the article offer the following suggestions.

Face financial facts. Be honest and open about costs. Pharmacists want to help their customers find the right solution at the right price, and drug reps with expensive products need to own up to that fact and still be willing to work with pharmacists.

Know the competition. Pharmacists expect reps to be able to explain the differences among competing medications. If you come out with a new PPI, the pharmacist will want to know if it is a me-too drug or if it offers genuine improvements over what’s already out there. Studies are fine, but dosing and effectiveness are what these people want to hear about most.

Provide evidence. Pharmacists tend to be receptive to evidence-based medicine. Pharmacists want to see that patients’ therapies are consistent with the evidence-based guidelines.

Be respectful. Unlike many physicians, pharmacists genuinely want to see drug reps. But rather than swinging by just to throw some pens their way, you should schedule appointments or take them lunch. Then do a brief in-service where you can share the information they need to make the right recommendations during those 7.1 phone calls a day.