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Changing times

Pharma admits that change is needed to accommodate new trends, however there is widespread uncertainty and disagreement over exactly how to do it

A chameleonAlthough pharma companies are aware that sales and marketing techniques will need to change to accommodate a shift towards product portfolios based around secondary rather than primary care, there is widespread uncertainty and disagreement over exactly how to do it, according to annual research from Innovex.

The report, An Era of Secondary Care: A Roadmap for the Future, is based on 223 interviews conducted across seven European markets including the UK, France and Germany.

The decision making power in healthcare is shifting, possibly towards secondary care at the expense of primary care as pharmaceutical pipelines develop evermore specialist products, said Trevor Jones, former director-general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

Overall, 92 per cent of companies interviewed said they would have to make changes of some kind to adapt to the secondary care trend, but opinions differed widely on what the most effective changes should be.

Major changes afoot

While the majority of firms recognised that they would have to alter their sales and marketing functions, 32 per cent said budget assignments would have to change too.

Operational structures (28 per cent), R&D (27 per cent) and profit models (22 per cent) were other areas where companies felt they needed to restructure.

Sixteen per cent even said they would have to restructure their entire personnel in order to adapt to new market conditions, an indication of the seriousness with which they regard the move towards secondary care.

Michael Thomas, associate partner at IBM Business Consultancy Services, said that the era of secondary care had arrived, and companies were grappling with powerful problems as they move to rethink the fundamentals of their entire sales and marketing strategy.

The answer is not to throw more reps at the problem - we need to sell smarter. To achieve success with these innovative and increasingly specialist medicines, we need to be intelligent and resourceful, to use every avenue open to us and, most importantly, to integrate it all together.

Surprise surprise

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the report was that even among those in secondary care, GPs are still regarded as the principal gatekeepers for patient treatment rather than specialists and consultants.

`When challenged on this, respondents said that GPs will continue to have the closest contact with patients and the best overall view of their conditions in the next five years, and will continue to manage hospital referrals, aftercare and post-care prescriptions,' the report stated.

However, respondents were less certain about the role of GPs and specialists in five years' time and many thought the importance of practice nurses would drop away significantly over time.

Uncertain future

The demise of the blockbuster product has been predicted in recent years, but the survey showed that the industry is in two minds about this.

Just 7 per cent said they definitely felt that the blockbuster era was over, while 44 per cent disagreed; an indication of confidence within the industry and its commitment to continue to innovate in a changing market.

While advertising and in-house salesforces dominated the marketing mix within the survey, respondents also focused on a wide range of other activities, including market research, branding, training, conferences, seminars and exhibitions, direct mailing, e-marketing and analytics and sales targeting.

Meanwhile, outsourced salesforces were seen as the third highest source of expenditure behind in-house sales and advertising in the sales and marketing mix. Spend on the remaining activities was fairly low, with e-marketing, market research and branding most commonly allocated the lowest proportion.

2nd September 2008

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