Almost half of all prescribers have restrictions on pharma rep access

ZS Associates report finds oncologists the most restrictive, with 65% placing moderate-to-severe limits

The gradual shift of more physician practices gravitating toward hospital-based networks, combined with a growing disenchantment with what pharma reps can provide to busy doctors, is biting deeper and deeper into rep access. In its syndicated AccessMonitor report (Spring 2013 edtion), ZS Associates (Evanston, IL) reports that 45% of all physician practices place restrictions on rep access. Oncologists are the most restrictive, limiting access 65% of the time; cardiologists, 58%, and primary care physicians, 47%, among the 20 specialties that ZS tracks. Last year, the average of all physicians with significantly restricted access was 35%, and in 2008, the first year of AccessMonitor, the average was 23%.

The AccessMonitor report is based on regularly updated surveys of 40,000 pharma reps, visiting approximately 325,000 prescribers. The doctors are then grouped as “accessible” (meeting more than 70% of the time with reps when they call); “restricted” (31-70%) and “severely restricted (30% or less).

Oncology reps are expected, on average, to make five calls a day, but ZS finds that in fact they’re only averaging around three. On average, an individual oncologist is visited by a rep 7-8 times annually; even the highest-performing reps “get face time only once a month.” The AccessMonitor report cites an oncologist who complained about reps being “walking, talking package inserts”—a reason for the dissatisfaction with rep visits.

What to do? ZS notes that reps bringing more than one product to sample or discuss have a better chance of getting face time. A truly new product opens doors—but that door begins to close six months after launch. ZS suggests that the ability to tailor presentations to the individual oncologist’s needs—for example, clinical research for one at an academic center; explaining patient-support services to a private practitioner—can help.

"While it is not possible to always have a new launch product, new information is a way to open doors," said Jon Roffman, associate principal with ZS Associates. "What can help is for pharmacos to be thoughtful about their ongoing studies and data publication strategy."

The executive summary of the ZS report is available here.