Physicians not 'easy marks' for drug sales reps, argues O.R. study

Doctors are far more wary of pharmaceutical companies' aggressive marketing than generally believed and don't easily yield to pressure to switch prescriptions, according to a paper being presented at a conference of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

"Are physicians easy marks?" ask Natalie Mizik of Columbia University and Robert Jacobson of the University of Washington in a paper of the same name. "To the contrary, our results show that physicians are "tough sells" in that sales force activity has modest to very small influence on prescribing behavior."

A related study by a second set of researchers suggests that distributing drug samples is less a method to sway physicians than a way of contrasting medications and helping manufacturers maintain market share.

The papers are being presented today at the INFORMS Marketing Science Conference, which takes place at the Robert H. Smith School of Business in the University of Maryland. The conference began on June 13 and concludes on June 15.

Study of Three Drugs

The authors, noting accusations that pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs) compromise physician integrity, obtained access to a database that allowed them to assess the impact that interactions with sales reps have on the number of new prescriptions issued by physicians.

The study sample involved three different drugs and 74,075 American physicians. The database contained information for 24 months on the number of new prescriptions issued for a drug by a given physician, the number of 'detailing' sales calls the physician received that month for the drug, and the number of free drug samples that the rep left with a physician. The data was provided on condition of anonymity.

The drugs differ: they come from different therapeutic areas; they have been on the market from less than 1 year to 11 years; and they have achieved different levels of commercial success their annual

Contact: Barry List
Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

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