No, the pharma salesforce is not obsolete

QUICK READ: Of course remote detailing is way up. Doctors have a lot of time on their hands with patients staying away from physician offices. Is the pharma salesforce obsolete? Hardly.

Primary care practices across the U.S. are projected to lose more than $15 billion as a result of missed consultations and services during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although I feel that number is a little high there is no doubt that too many people have stopped going to see their doctor. This is dangerous for patients and for our healthcare system. The current pandemic is also having a dramatic effect on pharma salespeople.

The graphic above is not enlightening, it’s more of a DUH! The question we are faced with now is the future of the pharma salesforce. Will some executive at a pharma company get the idea that remote detailing is better and cheaper than in-person detailing?

Data over the last few years continued to show that pharma salespeople were less effective than in the past. However, when we look at specialties the data is not the same. Oncologists, for example, say they have a great relationship with their salespeople and MSL’s. In fact. Seventy-one percent of U.S. oncologists surveyed by Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions agreed sales reps play an important role in their new product education. Among the┬ácancer doctors surveyed, 48% allow full access to sales reps, while 45% allow access with limits But do we really need a sales force to detail “me-too” drugs?

First, let’s make one thing clear. Right now most HCP’s have free time for online detailing. When patients return, and they will return that may not be the case. Physicians are going to be too busy seeing patients for remote detailing.

When a new drug is approved website analytics clearly shows that physicians are only interested in the product label. We had planned to do some research for a client asking about the “trust” and “quality” of data from pharma but the pandemic put that on hold for now.

As I have said before pharma, insurers, and PCP’s need to work together to develop and spread the message about putting off medical appointments for health issues. It could, in some cases, mean the difference between life and death.

Now, what about the pharma sales force? That needs to be evaluated on a brand by brand basis. Tests should be done in different markets to determine the effect on Rx’s by in-person salespeople vs. remote salespeople.

One thing we can’t afford to do is make a decision based on what’s happening now because what’s happening now is going to pass. We need to understand if things will go back to normal or if behaviors will change permanently.

I have seen a lot of organizations try remote detailing before and frankly it has never been as effective as in-person visits but, again, it depends on the drug and specialty.