Pharma rep access: down, down, down

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Latest ZS AccessMonitor asks, 'Who are [physicians] listening to?'

The annual update from ZS Associates (Chicago), a consulting firm on sales and related practices in life sciences, finds that 51% of physicians were considered “accessible” this year, as compared to 55% in 2013. “Though this year’s drop was less precipitous than in previous years, it reflects the steady decline in access over the past decade,” concludes the report. Data are based on call reports for over 200 pharma sales teams, meeting with approximately 325,000 prescribers. “Accessible” means those who were not either “access restricted” (who met with 31-70% of the reps who called on them) or “severely access restricted” (those who met with 30% or fewer). Access to so-called “rep friendly” specialities like dermatology or gastroenterology also declined, by double-digit numbers.

ZS, which regularly monitors the sales activities and resources of pharma companies, calculates that the count of reps has declined from 101,800 in 2005—its peak—to 63,000 today.

Pratap Khedkar, managing principal at ZS, writes that even though the likelihood is that rep ranks will be rising in the near future (due to the growth in new drug introductions), pharma companies need to pay more attention to alternate channels of communication. Reps need to become “orchestrators” who first and foremost find out what channels physicians prefer for communication. ZS itself is planning to introduce a new service, the ZS AffinityMonitor, to gauge physician preferences for Internet, email and other channels.

“There will always be room for reps,” says Khedkar, “The pipe won’t be eliminated, but the diameter will shrink.” Companies need to use other channels—not only must pharma reps live with the other channels but work with them, coordinating all sources of information.”

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