What strategies can firms use to try to persuade high prescribers to switch drugs?
It is pretty difficult. Consistently, researchers have found that even if physicians are willing to switch, patients might
not be. There has to be a multi-pronged approach. Pharma has to get physicians to convince patients that their drug is better,
but they also have to convince patients that they have a reason to switch.
For instance, if you look at Cialis, the marketing material clearly talks about a consumer-relevant benefit that might motivate
patients to go to a doctor and ask about this new drug. What is important is not just marketing to physicians alone or marketing
to patients alone, but to use these different strategies in conjunction. Especially in these instances where there's already
an established drug and you want to make both patients and physicians switch.
You mentioned detailing. What about other techniques such as meetings and lunches?
On average, a personal call to a physician or a face-to-face visit, however short it might be, has a higher bang for the buck
than larger meetings in terms of additional revenue. However, marketers must keep in mind that different techniques work for
different physicians. Some physicians might not be willing to see detailers, but may be willing to go to a meeting.
What can companies do to reach physicians better?
A lot of doctors have expressed concern that they keep seeing the same material over and over. Pharma companies must do a
better job bringing in new material, and making the information more relevant to the physicians and prescribers.
Some doctors also said that today's detailers tend to be less trained than detailers of the past. Often, there's much more
selling than actual information being transferred, and the reps can't answer specific questions that are more of a scientific
nature. I think industry can benefit from increasing the number of specialized detailers in the field.
This is where the one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work. Many other industries have moved toward a mass-customization
kind of strategy, with more targeted detailing that is tailored to individual physician needs.
Is pharma doing anything to cater to slower- or faster-learning doctors, or to segregate the two?
I spoke to some pharmaceutical companies and consulting firms, and it turns out that a majority of drug manufacturers use
docile-based tools for marketing allocation. What that means is that they group physicians into 10 groups based on their total
prescription volume in the category—people who are heavy prescribers versus light prescribers—and make their allocations based
on that data.
I think the drug industry should internalize the differences between slow and fast learners and take that information into
account when making their detailing allocations.
For example, specialists tend to be faster learners, but may not necessarily be heavy prescribers. So the docile-based tool
would miss that. There are specialists in a Stanford hospital, for instance, who don't see that many patients—but they are
extremely quick learners.
And you think that better physician segmentation is the answer?
I think pharmaceutical firms should look at segmenting prescribers on multiple dimensions and not just on sales. There's a
lot more data about physicians that is available to firms besides just prescription volumes, including specialties, how much
time they've been out of medical school, and the kind of practice that they are in. Are they in a big research hospital? Are
they in a small clinic somewhere? Some firms are doing this, but there needs to be more, and it needs to be done in a more
organized fashion. Pharma could get a huge benefit from segmentation.