A former Warner-Lambert employee has blown the whistle on the company's "shadowing program," alleging that some physicians accepted money in exchange for allowing pharma sales representatives to meet with patients, review charts, and recommend prescriptions. According to the lawsuit, Warner-Lambert-since acquired by Pfizer-tried to boost sales of its epilepsy drug Neurontin (gabapentin) by tracking prescriptions and rewarding high-prescribing physicians with gifts such as cash, trips to resorts, and lucrative speaking and consulting jobs-as well as paying them to enter patients in clinical trials. The program allegedly paid 75-100 US doctors at least $350 per day to let sales reps watch
A national FDA survey shows that nearly one quarter of recent doctor visits included a request for a specific brand of medicine. The telephone survey of 943 adults on the effectiveness of DTC advertising found that 69 percent of patients requesting a specific brand received a prescription for it.
Salu, the physician-specialist practice management company, has created an online market research panel aimed at helping pharma marketers tailor medical education programs to doctors enrolled in its web-based services. The panel began in January with a sampling of one hundred specialists who use Salu's online Dermdex (for dermatologists and plastic surgeons) and NeuroHub (for neurologists) services. Those are just two of Salu's hubs that serve tens of thousands of physicians who specialize in everything from allergies to reproductive medicine.
Despite generics' increasing market share and the slowed pace of blockbuster discoveries, the industry has reason for optimism. A recent IMS World Review report shows that audited global pharmaceutical sales grew 12 percent in 2001.
Because of the European Union's country-by-country drug price controls, enterprising wholesalers often buy prescription drugs in nations that keep prices low and resell them in countries that allow higher prices. Sanofi-Synthelabo's Plavix costs $55 in France but is resold for $79 in England. That long-standing practice, known as parallel trade, costs the pharma industry an estimated $3 billion in lost profits each year.