Detailing to Pharmacies

An increasing number of sales managers in Greece report to their companies incidents of pharmacists who “switch” doctors’ prescriptions and bypass their recommendations. In these cases the patients end up buying a competitive product recommended by the pharmacists instead of those recommended by the doctors. As a result the company invests in the doctors’ line but doesn’t achieve the anticipated ROI.

It is estimated by some pharmaceutical companies that the amount of doctors’ recommendations not converted to sales range between 15% and 30% depending on the category of the pharmaceutical product (i.e. Rx, Gx, OTC, VMS, PC etc.), its therapeutic properties and the patients’ profile.

There are many explanations for this but they all have one thing in common: the pharmacist. Many pharmaceutical executives report that a growing proportion of patients that initially planned to buy the product recommended to them by the doctor, eventually bought the product that the pharmacist counter-recommended.

It is common knowledge that in recent years the role and the prestige of pharmacists in Greece have been significantly improved. At the same time the power of pharmacists relative to that of pharmaceutical companies has increased and many pharmacists have already evolved from “prescription order – takers” to active opinion leaders influencing the buying habits of their clients.

For the above reasons many companies have tried to reinforce their pharmacy sales departments, adjust their commercial policies to the market’s needs, make them more competitive and increase the presence and visibility of their products in the pharmacies. Despite these marketing and sales activities pharmaceutical companies have managed to cut total “switches” only by a fraction. So what do companies miss in their effort to drive pharmacist recommendations and limit the number of “switches” performed at the expense of their products?

Most companies perceive pharmacists more like merchants, ignoring their scientific role and their need to know thoroughly the products they have placed in their pharmacies to sell and recommend to their clients. In a few words what many companies overlook in their efforts to approach pharmacists is the necessary product detailing about the characteristics, therapeutic properties, medication use, dosage etc. of their products.

Some companies that have identified this “vacuum” in their sales procedures try to fill it by assigning the task of product detailing to pharmacy sales reps. Yet they miss the fact that the time required by sales reps to fulfill their numerous tasks (such as stock-taking, order-taking, merchandising etc.) is already overstretched and as a result sales reps regularly bypass or perform pharmacy detailing at substandard levels not because they want to but because they have no other option.

So what is the solution? In that case pharmacy detailing must be performed by a separate team of experts specialized for this task. Some companies that have already implemented this practice saw the number of “switches” performed at the expense of their products decrease by a significant level while at the same time pharmacists’ recommendations increased substantially. As a result the market shares of the detailed products increased markedly.

In a few words by paying the necessary attention to pharmacists and by treating them not only as merchants but as scientists as well, pharmaceutical companies will not only improve considerably their relations with pharmacies but will also increase their market shares.