Drug Sales Reps Need New Tools

In a recent Insight Report, “In India, gift-giving drives drug makers’ marketing”, Reuters reports:

Sales representatives for Abbott Laboratories Inc’s Indian subsidiaries know what it takes to get a doctor to prescribe the drugs they market: a coffee maker, perhaps, or some cookware, or maybe a vacuum cleaner.

These are among the many gifts for doctors listed in an Abbott sales-strategy guide for the second quarter of 2011, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters. As laid out explicitly in the guide, doctors who pledge to prescribe Abbott’s branded drugs, or who’ve already prescribed certain amounts, can expect some of these items in return.

This raises the question “Is good pharmaceutical marketing possible?” Or, perhaps better put, are “kick backs” really necessary?

It seems as though this is not the case, as Reuters reports:

The managing director of a large diabetes clinic in Calcutta says he sees as many as 25 reps a day. “Whatever you like, they can provide you,” this doctor says.

His interview with Reuters was interrupted when a man squeezed into his office and placed a big yellow box on the table. “Sir, this is an exquisite casserole set,” the visitor said, slipping the doctor a note bearing the brand name Rostar, a cholesterol-lowering medicine from Mumbai-based Unichem Laboratories Ltd.

Is it possible for drug sales reps to offer doctors something more than “scanners, steam irons, shoes, stethoscopes and gift vouchers worth more than $100 to doctors”, as Reuters reports?

What pharmaceutical executives and marketers seem to have grossly overlooked is the reason for their drugs in the first place — their health benefits to patients. So, if Nupod is an antibiotic or if Rostar is a cholesterol-lowering medicine, why aren’t drug sales reps helping doctors to help their patients understand when these medicines are needed and how to take them as prescribed?

Drug sales reps need new tools — and those tools are getting patients to be more adherent to their medications. Aside from patients who get better health outcomes because of better adherence, pharmaceuticals stand to increase their revenues promoting patient adherence.

Do you agree or disagree? Please provide your comments below.

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