Environics has found that, on average, 43% of samples distributed were not going to the right physicians

Insights

The pharmaceutical industry consistently talks about increasing efficiency, minimizing waste, and increasing the ROI on all marketing and sales activities. But, did you know that samples, one of the most expensive sales and marketing tools that pharma companies produce, go to the wrong physicians almost half the time? 


Environics has found that, on average, 43% of samples distributed were not going to the right physicians.

The word “sample” is often thought to be a low-cost way of getting pharma products into the hands of patients and a path to an automatic sale. However, I know from my days as a product manager that, when the total cost of manufacturing, packaging, and delivering just one sample to a physician is calculated, this promotional strategy is far from cheap, making it even more important to ensure that every sample is being distributed to the right physician and given to the right patient.


Imagine what a pharma company could do with the savings gained by simply using a more optimized sampling plan…

The fact that nearly 50% of pharma samples, promotional tools that almost every pharma company spends millions of dollars producing, are not being used in the way they were intended is shocking, yet we continue to invest in these tools and not change how we use them. We are in a time when everyone is being pushed to do more with less. Imagine what a pharma company could do with the savings gained by simply using a more optimized sampling plan…

On the surface, most brand managers know that many of their samples aren’t being used as intended, but many of them simply assume there is no solution to the problem. Of course, there is a solution, but before we delve into that, let’s look at this problem through a different lens – the patient.


Today, we live in an age where health care spending is being cut and physicians see less and less differentiation between current and next generation products.

Pharmaceutical companies all claim to be moving toward a patient-centric model, but when I speak to brand managers and individuals in the field and ask them who the ideal patient is for their product is, almost all of them struggle – sadly, this is not unusual. For the longest time, pharma companies were able to claim their products were appropriate for anyone diagnosed with the disease that the product was indicated for. This may have been an effective strategy when the market was filled with fewer products and less choice, but not today. Today, we live in an age where health care spending is being cut and physicians see less and less differentiation between current and next generation productsPhysicians report that they often don’t see a compelling enough reason to switch to a new product, especially when they know they can have similar success with an older (likely generic) and cheaper product.


I could paint a picture in the physician’s head of the ideal patient for my product

As a product manager who had a very limited sales and marketing budget, I quickly realized that I couldn’t go to physicians with a generic patient profile and sales message, and expect them to write my product over an older, more established brand. Instead, by providing them with a very specific patient profile that included things like demographic information, dietary habits and socio-economic status, I could paint a picture in the physician’s head of the ideal patient for my product, and who I knew it would have success with. In my experience, once a physician experienced success prescribing my product with a few patients that matched my patient profile, they often expanded their use of my product to other patients (outside of that profile) on their own.


By presenting physicians with a specific patient profile, I was also able to better gauge from this conversation whether they were serving patients like the ones I described. This helped better determine whether I would get a reasonable ROI on any samples I distributed, and whether I should give samples to an individual physician. Having a very limited sample supply, but recognizing the importance of samples for trial, ensuring that my samples were going to the right patient was extremely important.


In order for a pharma company to truly be ‘patient-centric,’ the first step is to understand who your patient is 

not only from a disease standpoint, but also taking other factors into consideration, such as lifestyle, socio-economic status, family status and social values. Having a true understanding of your patient ensures that any marketing, sales and patient programs resonate with your target patient, and provide them with value and what they need.


With Environics’ MDConnect™ profiling segmentation, we are able to understand, from a social values and a behavioural perspective, how physicians are likely to treat patients, whether or not they prefer brands or generic products, and how they use samples within their practice. On top of that, our PRIZM system, which allows us to identify patient communities at the six-digit postal code level, helps us to identify areas across the country that would be suitable for a pharmaceutical product based on variables like disease state, socio-economics, family status, social values and many others.


Ensure the highest ROI possible by reaching the right patients through the right doctors.

By identifying ideal patient communities for your product and matching them back to specific physicians, we are able to target specific physicians and ideal areas in which to focus a sampling program, thereby ensuring the highest ROI possible by reaching the right patients through the right doctors.


By using our Patient-Centred Physician Targeting tool, we have helped clients recognize significant savings on their sampling programs, and reallocate those savings into programs and areas that enabled them to reach a broader number of patients in a more efficient way.


With sample budgets being cut, field forces being trimmed and the constant demand to do more with less, can a company really afford to not have its samples going to the right physicians?

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