Why All the Bad Buzz?

May 01, 2009
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

There's a massive shift happening in how pharma companies interact with doctors. Tightening revenue, decreasing physician access, and increasing new media options and influencers are causing the industry to rethink how it provides value to customers. As a result, the vast majority of US and European pharma companies now report they are moving from traditional product-centric sales models to new customer-centric service models.

But do doctors think companies are really delivering on their promises? Where do reps fit into this new picture—and what other services and information channels are most critical to driving results?

To understand the impact of service models from the physician perspective, TNS Healthcare performed an Internet survey in January 2009 with more than 1,500 primary care physicians in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. This was the third year of research with US physicians and the second for European doctors, enabling TNS to capture key trends and changes. There was some dramatic findings.

  • There's a disconnect between the value pharma thinks it is providing and what physicians see themselves receiving
  • Pharma companies' relationships with physicians are weakening around the world
  • These poor relationships are leading to more negative word-of-mouth from doctors, which for the first time has reached a tipping point in the United States.

This article will explain these key findings—and provide a guide to the services physicians in specific geographies value most. It will also reveal how doctors rate the industry's key players across an array of sales and marketing activities.

Change, Change, and Less Change

We hear much news of the changing pharma sales paradigm. But overall, fewer doctors say they are seeing companies deliver service-focused models. In 2009, only about a third of doctors said they see changes in their interactions with pharma as a result of the new service model—a substantial decline from 2008, when 45 percent said they'd experienced changes.

This decline may be the natural result of physicians simply getting accustomed to increased services, and therefore perceiving a slower rate of change. Many services that were new last year are now expected.

A more likely explanation is that the changed perception is a result of the major sales force reductions that took place last year. These reductions have the potential to disrupt longstanding physician/rep relationships at the same time that alternative channels, such as the Internet, don't yet appear to be fully compensating for the sharp cuts. The decline may also be a reaction to some of the new promotional guidelines that have prohibited more traditional "services," such as theater tickets, free lunches for office staff, golf balls, and other non-medically relevant gifts.

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