Is “Sales” still a factor of “sell”?
The Pharma industry has really come a long way. There was a time when number of players in the market was few, more time with physician was available, simple and basic selling strategy worked. With time, the scenario changed. Time with physician has been enormously scarce, sales force effectiveness has come in the limelight and companies, to align themselves with the trend, spent millions of dollars on technologies and consulting to increase or retain their share of the pie. Was all this worth? Yes – without this, established players would have faded away. Think about a market leader being complacent and not meeting the doctors for a while and allowing their products to be out of the pen habit. No one who has some basic sense of sales and marketing will do that.
This strategy of ethical marketing worked and will work. But if you take a closer look, it is like a situation where a bunch of hungry people fighting for a small piece of cake. The cake size is limited and they are ready to pay more to get one more piece of it. Within a short distance, there lies another big piece of cake but people are so busy fighting for this piece are not even looking at that. Sounds little infeasible, isn’t it ? Yes – but this is true. Pharma companies, focusing very highly on physicians or KOL / KAM are increasingly overlooking another big channel of business – Patients!
Lets take an example of 2 big multinational giants trying to convince a doctor on one life saving medicine used for chronic treatment. Finally one of them wins – the doctor is convinced and he prescribes the medicine to one of his patients. The patient starts taking the medicine however, drops after a certain period of time. The medicine, if used for prolonged period (say 3 years), could have generated 200 $ of revenue. But since the treatment has stopped at half a year, the revenue will now be one-sixth i.e. 33$. All effort that was spent on convincing the doctor generated revenue – but 17% of what was desired.
But don’t you think the rest of the 83% was assured money? Yes – but what did the company do to ensure that 83%? Nothing! The entire exercise stops right at the physician prescription. This is one big area that is untapped to a very large extent and will be in the focus in the next decade.
One of the reports I read few days back mentioned “pharma globally loses $350bn a year due to non-adherence which is more than 1/3 the total market size”. That should be enough to be an eye – opener.
Pharma companies need to invest in this area to ensure that prescription switching does not happen and patients adhere to the medication guideline as suggested by the physician. A patient who needs to have long term medication will ensure his / her own long life by adhering, so this has a social cause associated with it. Doctors will get benefited by associating themselves with the improved healthcare of the society. Pharma companies will be a part of this improvement and will generate more revenue at the same time. So, it is win – win for all.
What is needed is a robust program to ensure patient adherence. It may be in numerous form – text message at periodic interval to remind patients of their medication, next visit date, test etc; Free health check up after certain interval for their progress checked by the physicians; bond with the Pharma companies to avoid prescription switching and availability of the “bond”ed medicines at a lower cost, mobile games that help to increase patient awareness. There are many ways and the industry has just started.
Of course this will have challenges – economical, political, social. Some of the companies will utilize more liberalization in the rules to promote their medicines through emails, brochures and messages directly to the patient, availability of incorrect, misleading information and wrong interpretation will also be more likely. That requires tighter regulations, stricter control. But you can’t miss the forest for the trees, right?