Do pharma salespeople really help Oncologists?

SUMMARY: According to a report from Cardinal Health “although half of all participating oncologists said they place restrictions on the access sales representatives have to their practices, 71 percent agree that sales representatives play an important role in helping them learn about new therapies and 44 percent said representatives are one of the top sources they rely upon for this information”. But is this really true?

I think I have a pretty good handle on Oncologists. I have read every bit of research I could get my hands on and have heard first hand their feedback when it comes to pharma salespeople.

The report from Cardinal Health might seem eye-opening but further in there is is this tidbit “Oncologists most value information from pharmaceutical representatives on patient access and assistance programs. Maybe the sky-high prices of cancer drugs have something to do with that?

Cancer patients are 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy after they are diagnosed, according to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, based in Seattle.

 Merck’s Keytruda, the leader in a class of medicines that harness the immune system, could attain annual sales of more than $27 billion within six years, according to estimates, more than any drug in history. Lifted by the rising tide of new treatments, the global oncology market is expected to reach $230 billion by 2024.

The cancer scramble comes at the expense of conditions like multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, asthma, infectious diseases—and even opioid addiction—that have been less lucrative for pharma companies. Oncology therapies’ share of U.S. drug revenue almost quadrupled to 28% over the past two decades, even as cardiovascular drugs dropped from dominance to 1%, according to Boston Consulting Group.

There was some good information in the report though like “Oncologists want to receive more real-world evidence from pharmaceutical companies, particularly patient outcomes and comparative effectiveness studies”. Rea-world means that they want to know about real-world extension of life with cancer patients. It has been my experience that they also want to know about quality of life issues with certain drugs.

This report should be a warning to pharma and shows pharma that opportunities do exist. Patient Assistance specialists are needed within pharma to address the issues of costs. Using salespeople for this is a waste of time and dollars.