Are Pharmaceutical Marketing and Sales Targeting Pharmacists?

In an earlier post we discussed the role of the clinical pharmacist in the evolving new healthcare market.  Medication therapy management as required by CMS as a part of Medicare Part D plans is a good example of where and how pharmacists can and are expected to help improve adherence and therefore clinical outcomes while potentially lowering overall healthcare costs.  Given the healthcare failure statistics we  previously discussed it’s hard to imagine that medication therapy management really gets all that much attention from pharmacists or pharmaceutical marketers.

A recent featured article in Health Benefit News highlights the success WellPoint has experienced in a pilot program to enlist and pay pharmacists for more attentive “medication therapy management.”  They were able to demonstrate increases in adherence which not surprisingly translated to better control of disease symptoms for hypertension,  hyperlipidemia, and diabetes mellitus.   While pharmacy costs went up they also “saw a great reduction in hospitalizations.”  Overall, in the one year study, they saw cost neutral results, but concluded “it’s going to take more than a one-year time frame to see dramatic changes in cost.”

The healthcare market (with pressure from government, payers and insurers) is getting more aggressive about delivering better clinical outcomes as one way to help increase quality and lower the cost of care.  So whether it is through Accountable Care Organizations, Integrated Healthcare Systems, or just enhancing outcomes from solo or group practice settings, I believe pharmacists will play an increasingly important role in medication therapy management, especially adherence-enhancing programs.   Pharmaceutical marketers who view the retail or hospital pharmacist as merely a dispenser of medications and cursory counseling will be putting their products at risk of competitive erosion and never meeting their full commercial potential in the evolving new healthcare market.

So what’s a pharmaceutical marketer to do?

Well, how many pharmaceutical marketers have assessed (not just mentally speculated) how their product might perform in this type of a trial or study?  How many have commissioned similar types of studies?  How many marketers have partnered with healthcare provider systems to determine the adherence value (clinical outcome differences) between adherent and non-adherent patients and what the value proposition could be?  How many marketers have actually met with pharmacists about their evolving role? How many have started to work with pharmacists on developing educational programs and materials for their products?  How many have pharmacist training programs for their patient education programs?  More importantly, how many pharmacists are considered high priority calls for your sales representatives?

I think I just heard somebody say…”of course we are doing all this.”

Great.  Now, are you doing it as  just another marketing tactic?

I might suggest that if you are doing it to genuinely help patients, pharmacists, and healthcare provider systems achieve their goals, you will find a much more receptive audience, ready to embrace your efforts and make meaningful contributions to your product success without feeling compromised.      mike@pharmareform.com

  • http://pharmaguapa.com Pharmaguapa

    You raise a really good point here and highlight the important role pharmacisits play in healthcare. They have traditionally been overlooked (along with nurses) but finally are starting to get some well deserved recognition for their role – including from pharma marketeers. Hopefully we will see more pharma companies working with pharmacists to tackle adherence and compliance issues – resulting in a win win for everyone but first and foremost for patients.

  • http://www.pharmareform.com Mike Wokasch

    Pharmaguapa,
    Thank you for your comment and for pointing out the role of nurses. They have far greater clinical training and experience than they are given credit for. They can improve clinical outcomes and will likely play a much larger clinical role in the evolving new healthcare market. mike@pharmareform.com

  • Eleanor Ng

    Thanks Mike for the excellent appraisal of what the future can hold for pharmacists.

    I am a pharmacist from Melbourne, Australia and am humbled by the fact that the Australian government have thus far, stepped in the right direction for the future of patient focused care and for pharmacists alike. Please refer to Australia’s improving, evolving ‘Home medication review’ system found on http://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/provider/pbs/fourth-agreement/hmr.jsp which I’m sure you are already aware of.
    This in my opinion, is a leading example of how pharmacists can improve their chances of survival in the overcrowded market of pharmacists in Australia. It also can improve patient outcomes, adherence, and patient education, as my experiences in this field demonstrates this.

    I am curious as to know your opinion on companies such as ‘QUINTILES’ which seem to have created a whole new industry supporting big Pharma companies and whether they are independent enough from big pharma stakeholders and whether they genuinely increase the number of drugs made available to patients in a time where the incidence of disease exceeds the number of new therapies approved and made available. Thank you.

    Eleanor.f.ng@gmail.com

  • http://www.pharmareform.com Mike Wokasch

    Eleanor,
    I worked at Covance, a contract research organization similar to Quintiles. I feel contract research organizations are sufficiently independent and add significant value to the drug development process. These companies have matured over the past 30 years and now have expertise, resources, and capabilities beyond that that even found in many big pharmaceutical companies.T hey provide considerable staffing flexibility to biotech and pharma companies that need varying levels of preclinical or clinical development expertise and support resources at any one time. For many clinical studies involving thousands of patients, hundreds of clinical sites, and the need for global execution, contract research organizations are often the only option to getting these large complex studies done. mike@pharmareform.com