Electronic information implications for pharmaceutical companies
Drug information sharing in the past provided an important role for sales reps, Medical Science Liaisons, and even journal advertising. Even back in the mid-1980’s I remember doing online research (think dumb terminal with phone couplers) for infectious disease experts in their offices. For most, their only alternative to get this information was to sit with the Med School reference librarian and try to figure out how to get what the physician needed from the National Library of Medicine database. Searching was actually a skill back then. This was probably as cutting edge at the time as you could get for information retrieval and sharing.
With the advent of the internet, robust search engines, and the pervasive availability of electronic retrieval devices, calling on physicians to do literature searches became limited in value. Now these experts can do their own searches from their own computers. What’s the point?
For the industry to add value through information sharing, it is going to take more than sending a sales rep or MSL to see a physician with basic company product information. Most companies realize this and have moved to take advantage of the internet, e-learning, e-prescribing, and television. In time however, this will also get old, build skepticism, and diminish in value as marketers abuse these tools, trying to cleverly hype their product advantages, and overcommercialize their products with bold intrusive branding.
So what’s the solution? Better science. FDA approved label claims for what you want to say about your product and strong definitive clinical data to support the claims. Peer reviewed presentations and publications with full disclosure and fair balance of data to support the benefits and risks. If you want to claim superiority, do the studies, get the claims, or at the very least, have credible data from reproducible controlled trials.
Then use whatever electronic communications you chose to disseminate your data. This is not to say you don’t need marketing or sales to promote your product. Professional, data supported claims merely provide a more credible base for promotion. No hype required. You could even have life science trained medical personnel who can discuss in detail, on a peer basis, the nuances of the data and what they mean. If these people can not stand in front of a medical conference and defend their presentations, comments, or the implications of the data being presented, they should not be presenting in a one-on-one setting either. A very tough standard, perhaps. But, a lot more credible than the industry has provided healthcare providers in the past.