In February, the post Buying Someone Food is Not Marketing addressed how pharmaceutical representatives sell physicians on their medications and how some health care organizations like University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) were responding to those marketing efforts.
UPMC took another big step toward changing the game by turning to web-based technology to help physicians obtain sample medications for patients. As mentioned in a story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on June 28, the UPMC eSample Center will allow physicians to order medication through a “virtual sample closet” developed by MedManage Systems, Inc.
Wow. This could make things even tougher for pharma reps responsible for marketing to UPMC doctors. UPMC’s new policy implemented on February 15 required pharma reps to be ‘invited’ to make presentations or visits with doctors. The new policy allowed the reps to offer medication samples, but not other gifts, including meals. Now, UPMC has gone a step further by providing UPMC physicians with an opportunity to obtain samples online.
If the pharmaceutical companies are able to distribute samples online, it could be a win-win for the companies (lower marketing costs) and physicians (added convenience).
But what about all those pharma reps? Hmm…In the early stages of the online sample program, pharma reps targeting UPMC doctors will have to be creative in obtaining the necessary ‘invitation’ to meet. And, they’ll know that their long-standing marketing tactic of providing free samples can be matched online by competitors.
As for the long term, if the online program takes hold and grows, those pharma reps would be wise to keep their eyes and ears open with respect to new career opportunities.