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Customer Services in Pharma Industry is an interesting subject. It has been and continues to be a topic for heated debates. It is often discussed, much maligned, but less clearly understood.
The most common complaint/ comment/ sentiment aired is that the pharma companies invest on doctors and heavily influence their prescriptions. We shall examine the situation to see how and why it is working, if it is working.
I wish to make a statement right in the beginning to set the ground for discussion.
Drug prescriptions have always been, and shall always be based on three factors, worldwide, and in this order of priority.
- Evidence-based Merit of the Drug
- Customer Services
The business of physicians is ‘patient’. It would be a folly to believe that a physician would knowingly prescribe a drug which is not qualified for the treatment of his/her patient. The merit of the drug is always supreme.
During the 1970’s when I joined Pharma Sales, the concept of customer services revolved around the same things. (I had many colleagues who were several years senior to me and they vouched for the same in 1960s).
- Detailed, authentic, accurate product information – This was most sought after and cherished. Do remember that there was no internet and medical journals were expensive and hard to get. The doctors relied heavily on the information provided by the pharma companies. MNCs came up to expectation in this area. Local pharma representatives were also well-trained and knew about their products.
- Most drugs were generally low priced. MNCs system of pricing was based on regional market dynamics in various countries. They would offer lower prices in poorer countries while they sold at a higher price in developed countries. They recovered their research cost and profits from the first world and gave service to third world. It was a very humane model which most companies followed. People who traveled abroad, and only a few had the luxury to do it, bore testimony to the fact that drug prices in Pakistan were much lower as compared to abroad.
- Some small gifts such as pens, table jars etc. – In MNCs some of these things came from principal offices. In fact, they circulated a list with prices to all affiliates and offered them to buy whatever they wanted. Due to scarcity of these things, these things were valued and kept in the clinics for very long time.
Please note that the primary and essential requirement was knowledge. This was the basis for choosing the product. MNCs always promoted research products, Local Pharma promoted their own formulations; there were very few, basic generics. Gifts were secondary and never became the reason for prescription.
Prescription decision was based entirely on the merit of the product; nothing else. The salespeople competed for better knowledge and presentation; companies insisted on training. Six weeks initial training was common feature in many MNCs like Glaxo, Abbott, Hoechst. Wyeth and Lederle had two weeks due to the nature of their products.
Another important fact till the beginning of mid-1980s was that the Local Pharma rarely launched generic of a highly running research product.
The change started in 1980s……
To be continued……