Marketing to Professionals: A Sample Plan - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Marketing to Professionals: A Sample Plan
Sure, e-sampling can save money. But there are plenty of other reasons to use it.


Pharmaceutical Executive


No-see Most executives indicate that they attempt to target the top 60 percent of prescription writers within a given category; this often amounts to 30 percent of the physician universe. Within this target group, sales reps are typically able to reach two-thirds, leaving one-third as no-sees. Online sampling can allay rep fatigue by working in a medium better suited to the MD's practice and work flow needs.

Loyal, low-maintenance These doctors typically represent approximately one percent of the category-writing universe, and they are relatively easy to identify. With online sampling, companies can reduce the number of details these physicians receive (at an average cost of $142 per visit), while ensuring that they have the samples they need to continue prescribing the product.

The Future of Sampling

Over the next few years, many in the industry expect to see a fundamental change in how reps are used. Today, the rep typically delivers a 90-second detail and drops off samples. Tomorrow, it seems the rep will have to take on the role of trusted physician advisor who communicates leading-edge science and education.

This rep of tomorrow will most likely have far fewer, but longer, details targeted at the company's highest prescribers, key influencers, and medical directors at larger medical institutions, such as medical groups, independent practice associations, and managed care organizations. As these new strategies move into full swing, one significant change may also be imminent; most reps will carry a much-reduced supply of samples—or none at all. This is not to say that pharma companies will do away with samples altogether, but it does suggest that pharma companies should look at e-sampling and how it fits in with the way physicians are using emerging technologies, such as e-prescribing, electronic medical records, and practice management software.

As physicians accept these technologies, the next generation of e-sampling technology will be tightly integrated into the physician's clinical workflow through e-prescribing. For example, when a physician gives a sample to a patient, that fact will go into the patient's individual record. That same electronic record could be used to notify the pharmaceutical company that the sample was used, and to request replenishment. The company will be able to track how its samples were used (a key to optimization) and will know when to deliver additional samples. Integration of e-sampling into the physician's workflow has many potential benefits for the doctor, patients, and the pharmaceutical company.

Physician benefits As e-sampling is integrated with e-prescribing, companies can automate sample replenishment, ensuring that the most-used samples are always on hand. While regulations like PDMA and 21 CFR Part 11 require MDs to request sample replenishments, it is reasonable to expect that automated requests will be permitted.

Patient benefits Patients, like their physicians, want therapy to begin within six to 12 hours after the office visit. It is easier to meet that goal if the physician has adequate samples on hand. The ability to start a course of therapy before a time-consuming trip to a busy pharmacy should help compliance—and build goodwill between doctors and patients.

Pharma company benefits A system that integrates e-sampling and e-prescribing could potentially provide pharma companies with rich, timely information about prescribing. Through this type of longitudinal performance data, pharmaceutical companies can better determine the most appropriate messaging strategy.

As companies move toward adopting e-sampling, they must remember that it isn't a replacement for the sales force. Instead, it is a way to manage physician relationships, extend the company's reach, control costs, and collect valuable data. Used well, e-sampling will increase productivity and strengthen the physician/pharma relationship.

David Duplay is CMO of MedManage Systems. He can be reached at


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