The Lesser of Two Evils - Pharmaceutical Executive

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The Lesser of Two Evils
Physicians fear that prescription-data restrictions might force sales reps to mine for personal info


Pharmaceutical Executive


More than three quarters of physicians note—sometimes grudgingly—that having prescribing data available to reps does allow reps to better understand which samples provide the most value and which samples simply take up valuable space in the drug closet. In the absence of prescribing data, sampling may become less targeted to a physician's practice, and the doctor will have to spend more time educating reps about what they may or may not need in terms of samples.

One physician noted, "This is a business, and if reps don't know what I'm prescribing, they won't know what to bring to me unless I tell them."

A Bad Rep(utation)

In the absence of readily available prescribing data, some physicians feel that reps may spend more time mining the data they need from physicians directly, and this may ultimately take more time from the physician's schedule. Some doctors believe that sales reps may become more aggressive and spend more time with staff members and front-desk gatekeepers to obtain general prescribing information. One in four doctors interviewed fear the number and frequency of details would increase under the PDRP in order to obtain more information.

As one physician noted, "It would be counterproductive to take away my prescribing data from a rep only to have him spend more time digging for my personal information." If this were to happen, physicians indicate that their practices may introduce even more restrictive measures to limit rep access.

Guard the Guards

A final major concern among physicians that weakens the intent to enroll in the program is uncertainty around enforcement. Many feel that PDRP will be limited by a lack of enforcement in the event that a pharmaceutical company "breaks the rules." These physicians are concerned that the program may lack teeth and that pharmaceutical companies will have little incentive to comply. As one doctor said, "I'm not convinced that companies will actually abide by this. I don't think the AMA could even give them a slap on the wrist."

Ultimately, physicians want the best elements of the physician/representative relationship: appropriate sampling to suit their practices, information about new products, and new data for existing products. They want this information without the sense that they may be compromising their personal privacy.

While the practice of recording physician-interaction information may be here to stay and is a valuable resource for reps, pharmaceutical companies need to be sensitive to these concerns and act responsibly in the absence of prescribing data at the representative and district-manager level. Any actions by reps to skirt the system to gain access to prescribing data (and worse, personal data) are likely to add fuel to the fire and further erode perceptions of pharmaceutical manufacturers as trusted partners in the delivery of optimal healthcare.

Michael Feehan is CEO of Observant LLC. He can be reached at

Neil Bergquist is senior associate at Observant LLC. He can be reached at


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