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GSK and Merck won high marks from physicians for their electronic promotions, according to a new study. But do docs really want to skip the live sales calls and go online for info?
Last year, ten percent of doctors opted for electronic detailing instead of in-person sales calls with pharmaceutical reps, according to a study by Verispan.
Ten percent might not seem like a large number, but when you factor in the number of doctors refusing to see reps and the amount of sales jobs being slashed by companies, e-promotion might not be a bad alternative.
The rest of the numbers are even harder to ignore:
"In the past three years, pharma companies have really turned towards this channel and e-promotion has really grown in spending," said Heather Alba, associate product manager at Verispan. "Physicians prefer this form of detailing because they can do the activities on their own and with the Internet in their offices, they can learn about the drugs without disrupting patient time with reps in the office."
Of the 1,000 doctors interviewed across 14 specialties, Merck received the most kudos for its e-promotion campaigns, which cost the company $83 million in 2007. The company, which markets at least six drugs through electronic promotions (Januvia, Vytorin, and Gardasil to name a few), accounted for 20 percent of industry spend in e-promotion in 2007.
That said, in comparison to overall marketing, electronic channels account for only a fraction of total media spend. While the actual percentage of advertising cost aimed towards electronic activities has yet to be determined, the number bandied about is close to 2 percent, Alba said.
According to Verispan e-promotion is considered to be any campaign involving online events, virtual (guided tours), and video (live) details. Doctors can also be steered towards a WebMD portal or a site that features a particular activity. Physicians said that they preferred virtual details the most, followed by online events.
Verispan also reported a correlation between the age of physicians and their preference for e-promotion. More experienced doctors are less likely to switch to online detailing than those in their first few years in the field.
"Given the regulatory conditions concerning reps having access to docs, e-promotion is a good alternative to promoting towards physicians," Alba said. "If they can't be there in person, reps can still invite physicians to engage in an activity online. This is just another way to reach out to physicians that pharma does not have access to."