Pharma sales reps have always been expected to know the basics of their company’s products and stay informed about recent medical developments. However, according to GSK, just knowing this information will no longer be enough. In response to the increased consolidation occurring in the healthcare industry, GSK is assigning its salesforce a new role - as educators. GSK’s president of North American pharmaceuticals, Deidre Connelly, announced this new shift in its pharmaceutical salesforce at the PharmEHR Summit this past March.
In 2012, the emphasis is not just on data, but on transparent communication of the relevant data. And who better to know about a company’s products than its own employees?
Connelly stated that their “customers continue to see the value in the knowledge and expertise our sales professionals provide (regarding) the appropriate use of our medicines. Increasingly, they are looking for us to be a business-to-business partner who can help deliver solutions and support their efforts to deliver evidence-based care.”
Pharmaceutical sales reps will now be evaluated on both their knowledge and ability to communicate scientific information as educators, and that the new goal is to communicate the benefits and risks of a drug so that their pharmaceuticals are prescribed correctly. As physicians are inundated with new pharma information daily, it is important that the pharma salesforce keeps communication channels open to allow accurate information through. For example, GSK sees its salesforce adding value when they can educate physicians as to the proper method for administering their drug during oncology fusion treatments by reviewing and explaining administration information during the sales process.
GSK is enforcing this shift from salesforce to educators by removing financial incentives for pharma reps so that the emphasis is on customer service and not prescription volume.
This shift also coincides with the demand by insurers for budget impact models and cost-effectiveness analysis. In addition to providing physicians with accurate information, pharma reps must support physicians by helping them track payers’ formulary and reimbursement changes. However, all too often, information about budget impact can overshadow efficacy in the decision making process for pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Maryna Zilberberg suggests that the way to avoid this conflict is to coherently communicate the cost-effectiveness of a pharmaceutical or medical device early on. Before false information or cognitive biases are established, pharma reps should inform physicians of the patient benefits and true value of the medicine. Dr. Zilberberg concludes that this collaboration will benefit all stakeholders as patients will get the opportunity at better outcomes, pharmacists and physicians will understand the value proposition up front, and the manufacturer will profit from providing a beneficial service.