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We take a break from the ‘Story of a Pharma Salesperson’ and move on to other topics. We shall return to it again later.
COVID is still here. In fact, COVID19 became COVID20 and is going into COVID21.
The impact on businesses has been enormous. Some businesses reaped extraordinary benefits while many others suffered huge losses.
Pharma companies are no exception. Since COVID took everyone by surprise, the responses were understandably ‘reactive’. Situation kept evolving rapidly and everyone had to keep thinking what to do next. The more business savvy companies took advantage of the COVID related business opportunities such as selling hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin and dexamethasone etc. Others were slow to react and did not get much. Then there was a flurry of registration efforts for Remdesivir kind of products. Again, agile companies brought products in the market quickly, although the usage did not develop as expected.
The first wave of COVID started clearing in July and companies rushed to get back to normal working. The second wave of COVID is already upon us.
Keeping the sales teams engaged and busy was an equally big challenge; similar to protecting the business. Most companies resorted to online training sessions every day as there was nothing better to do. Couple of companies later involved their sales teams in customer services such as distributing masks, PPEs, sanitizers, and fumigating the clinics. There was no altruistic motive in doing these activities. It was a purely commercial act to keep the customers intact.
Between July and November, field work had largely returned to normal. COVID resurgence news started circulating in the world around September and the situation has since been getting more and more serious. Pakistan is no exception. COVID is on the rise though the government does not wish to clamp lockdown.
Pharma companies are trying to cope with the emerging situation on several fronts. On the backend, it is supply chain which is already experiencing some disruption. On the frontend, it is working of sales teams which is facing restrictions and disruption.
Have Pharma companies adjusted to COVID era working? We shall examine.
As mentioned earlier, during the first phase, all actions were ‘reactive’ due to suddenness and unexpectedness of situation. However, since the second wave was more active, some ‘proactive’ actions could have been taken. Apparently, it has not been so. The companies got busy in making up for lost work and lost business, rather than preparing for the second wave. New product launches which had been put on hold were launched in quick succession. Team meetings, doctors’ gatherings, product presentations and every other group activity was done in the last three months. None of these can be termed ‘proactive’.
The summary is that the Pharma companies in Pakistan do not appear to have an integrated strategy drawn up for COVID era working, although COVID is here to stay for quite some time. We are all pinning hope on the vaccine, but we must understand that Pakistan shall be somewhere quite down the queue to get vaccine.
One example should be eye-opening for us. Flu vaccine has been around for many years. Two brands, one each from GSK and Sanofi bring new edition of flu vaccine in September every year. Abbott also brought its flu vaccine couple of years ago. This year, No Flu Vaccine Has Been Given to Pakistan. The manufacturers must have been asked to save all doses for use in US and Europe. If the simple flu vaccine has been held up, we can expect that we shall not get COVID vaccine any time soon. We are considering that maybe we shall get Chinese one whose trials are underway in Pakistan. However, the fact remains that China has a very large population of its own to vaccinate first. Pakistan also has a large population, and it will take long time, money and effort to even vaccinate a sizeable portion, not to talk about the entire country.
Integrated efforts are required to adjust to changes in circumstances triggered by COVID, which are yet to come.
In the next part, we shall see some possible measures.
To be Continued……