“I want just two minutes” is what many pharmaceutical company and sales representatives tell my staff. Truth is that if I gave everyone who wanted a few minutes that time, I would have no time left to see patients.

Yet, for as long as I have been in practice, and I suspect before then, pharmaceutical marketers use the same approach: Just showing up with samples trying to catch a few minutes, setting up lunches, presenting their company-run studies, and proving the safety and effectiveness of those medications. And they usually take those study results back with them. However, this approach is not doctor-friendly but rather intrusive into our daily practices.

How can pharmaceutical marketers become more physician-friendly?

  1. Stop the cold calls and trying to grab my attention. My mind may be on why my patient is not breathing well, why her kidneys are failing, and a whole host of other problems. Trust me, whatever you tell me on those calls is not going to be heard. I may smile and nod but my mind is not there. In fact, I, as well as many other doctors, no longer accept these cold calls. I will, however, meet reps if they schedule an appointment and I will then give them my complete attention.
  2. Stop leaving coupons. As a family doctor, I prescribe hundreds of different kinds of medications. There are dozens of coupons in my sample closet. My EHR actually has a check box whenever there is a coupon available and it can be electronically sent along with the prescription. The healthcare system is going paperless and paper coupons are headed to the trash. Give us electronic capabilities to use your incentives. Better yet, make them readily available to patients. I usually tell my patients to look for coupons on the manufacturer’s site. Make educational tools to enable patients to find them.
  3. Start using more compelling statistics. Yes, I get that your medication is the best. But, if it is on the market, I know it must be effective and safe. Show me a true head-to-head study against a competing drug and I will sit up and take notes. Doctors know if your study did not show wanted results, you would not tell us.
  4. Don’t tell a me drug is formulary if it is Tier 2 or 3. Just give it to me straight. Patients do not want to pay a higher copay, even if it is “formulary.” Patients get mad at me if I tell them it is formulary and they show up at the pharmacy and are told they have a higher copay.
  5. Stop the paper abuse! So much “information” gets left for me that ends up in the trash. Send it to me electronically and I may open and read it. Data is now digital in most of the healthcare system.

Pharmaceutical marketing has never been more essential as new medications roll out. Doctors need the information, but make it meaningful.

  • Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP

    Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP, is Owner of Girgis Family Medicine LLC. Currently affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital, Linda also writes for Sermo, Physician’s Weekly, the Library of Medicine, and others.

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