Study finds problems in M.D.-sales rep relationship

August 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The vast majority of physicians perceive today's sales representatives as younger, less experienced, more aggressive, less collegial and more focused on sales as opposed to science, according to an online survey of physicians.

The vast majority of physicians perceive today's sales representatives as younger, less experienced, more aggressive, less collegial and more focused on sales as opposed to science, according to an online survey of physicians conducted by Accel Healthcare Communications LLC, a healthcare advertising and medical communications firm based in New York. Reps are perceived as mostly interested in "pitching" their products and dropping off samples to promote physician use, while physicians are really looking for timely, credible information they can trust.

"The physicians have spoken, and they want unbiased and balanced information," said Charlene Prounis, president of advertising at Accel. "Their overwhelming perception is that reps see their sole mission as selling their products, usually by presenting a selectively positive profile of their drugs."

Bad news for reps

The report, which was based on a statistically representative sample of 150 high-volume (100 to 200 patients a week) primary care physicians from across the United States, found that 63% of doctors would rarely meet with pharmaceutical sales representatives if they stopped distributing samples during their visits, and that nearly 70% of physicians perceive information provided by sales representatives as "very unbalanced."

The survey also found that:


•Â Half of all reps are turned away from the physician's office on any given visit.


•Â Physicians are limiting the time they spend with sales reps to less than one hour a week.


•Â More than 95% of physicians believe it's important for reps to provide information they can trust, yet only 6% of physicians believe the information they are getting is truly balanced.


•Â More than 90% of physicians feel that the majority of reps are not providing new information.

Ways to improve

To improve the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical sales reps, Accel recommended that drug companies document, via third parties, the fairness of their materials or weave differing points of view into the sales call through print or electronic media.

The company also said that the value of the rep must be enhanced beyond samples and include higher levels of medical knowledge. Conducting preference-based marketing surveys to assess the doctors' desired medium and deploying resources accordingly would also enable companies to give doctors what they want. PR

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