- According to a survey from CMS/COMPAS, 39% of physicians are willing to see pharma reps without any restrictions, up from 36% last year. This finding, which represents a reversal of a long-term trend, is based on a survey of 2,680 doctors.
- Previously, the trend had been towards stricter regulations keeping reps out of physicians offices due to the perception that they took up too much time and that they were attempting to have too much influence over prescribing patterns, while pushing docs towards more expensive medications.
- The reversal in the do-not-see trend is largely driven by an interest in new types of medicines, with a particular interest in immuno-oncologic drugs.
There was a point when do-not-see policies and similar restrictions led to pharma reps spending as much time trying to figure out how to get face time with a physician as actually prepping for their calls. However, as innovation in oncology and other therapeutic areas has given way to new types of medications, physicians are more interested in speaking to reps and even collaborating with them.
Personalized medicines, such as Merck's Keytruda, represent a a very powerful approach to therapy, but one that requires a great deal of collaboration and knowledge. Well-trained reps are now an important piece in the overall puzzle. For this reason, not only are reps more welcome than before, but only 13% of physicians plan to decrease their interactions with reps—compared with 27% last year. This is major progress and bodes well for the pharmaceutical sales profession.
However, there's another, less encouraging side to this trend. In a separate survey, ZS Associates found that accessibility of physicians to reps has decreased to 47% this year, from 51% last year, and 55% in 2013. This is largely a function in the increase in the number of physicians working in integrated delivery network (IDN) environments.
One reason for these divergent findings is the difference between how various specialists interact with pharma reps. On one side, certain specialties, such as oncology, neurology, dermatology, urology, rheumatology, gastroenterology, and primary care tend to be more open to reps, while other areas are not.
Perhaps a good professional move for an aspiring sales rep would be to focus on a rep-friendly therapeutic area.
Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on the current state of the pharmaceutical sales profession, with a focus on access, training, and outlook.
Note: An earlier version of this post attributed a survey to ZS Pharma that was actually from ZS Associates. We have corrected the article and regret the error.