Doctors' views on pharma: part one

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We interview five healthcare professionals to get honest feedback on their views of pharma. First up is a male consultant who specialises in anaesthetics. To coincide with our medical communications focus month, pharmaphorum speaks with five healthcare professionals to...We interview five healthcare professionals to get honest feedback on their views of pharma. First up is a male consultant who specialises in anaesthetics. To coincide with our medical communications focus month, pharmaphorum speaks with five healthcare professionals to... Hannah Blake interviews Doctor A

Here is the first of five anonymous interviews with healthcare professionals from a range of different demographics, to find out how they typically engage with pharma.

To coincide with our medical communications focus month, pharmaphorum speaks with five healthcare professionals to find out how they typically engage with pharma and their thoughts on how this could be improved in the future.

Throughout this series, we are looking to learn:

• How doctors typically engage with pharma companies?

• What a good interaction with pharma is like?

• What common characteristics define the pharma representatives with whom doctors typically have good interactions with?

• Would doctors value details and data from pharma around late stage trials activity and the new drugs pipeline?

• If yes, how would they like to receive this information, and through what channels?

• From a trust perspective, do doctors believe that pharma companies supply information in a transparent way?

• Other than drug information, what else is or could be provided by pharma companies to support a doctor’s work or create better interactions?

• What one thing could pharma companies provide doctors with through engagement that would be most useful in the future?

• Do modern technologies, such as tele-reach detailing and use of iPads, add value to doctor’s knowledge and interaction with pharma?

We invited five doctors, with a range of different demographics, to take part in this series, coordinated by Doctors.net.uk. In order to get honest feedback, we shall be keeping the doctors anonymous.

Today’s doctor, who shall be called Doctor A, is a male Consultant who graduated in 1979. He specialises in anaesthetics, with a sub speciality in cardiothoracic.

Interview summary

HB: How do you typically engage with pharma companies?

DA: Their representatives are available at meetings, they come to the trust to sponsor meetings, and they deliver a load of stuff through the post unsolicited, plus in journals.

HB: Based on your experience, can you describe a really good interaction you’ve had with pharma?

DA: I’ve had about a three year relationship with MSD, or Schering-Plough as it was then. Out of the blue, I got an invitation to attend an expert advisory group regarding sugammadex, which I accepted. Before the group, I spent a bit of time learning about it, as being invited to the advisory group as an expert meant that I should know something about it. During the group, I was asked questions. The pharma company proposed an indication for it which I didn’t think would work very well, but I had another one, and on the strength of that I’ve been going to meetings to talk about the drug ever since. There’s also an MSD rep that comes round, there’s been three different ones in the time I’ve been with them, and they have all been very helpful. We’ve done a study with them, and they’ve sponsored a student project. So all of that came out of a question out of the blue. The difference is that they have a very good drug which is very useful, so that’s better than a product which is of marginal benefit or not very effective.

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"If they can present the information that you need easily then it’s well worthwhile speaking to them..."

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HB: What common characteristics define the pharma representatives with whom you typically have good interactions with?

DA: Well they have to have a valuable product, and after that it’s the presentation of information. If they can present the information that you need easily then it’s well worthwhile speaking to them, because they can save time searching for it yourself.

HB: Would you value details and data from pharma around late stage trials activity and the new drugs pipeline etc?

DA: Well the new drugs pipeline would be of general interest. The late trial stage would be helpful in advance to alert you to the awareness of the existence of a new drug, which would be quite helpful. But the late trial stage activity tends to be... those that are published tend to be very positive, so you have to take them with a slight pinch of salt.

HB: How would you like to receive this information, and through what channels?

DA: The publications give you time to think, while a presentation by an expert in the field at a meeting always makes it a bit more digestible. Someone who has experience of the drug and has done some research in it, but does not have a conflict of interest to declare, can often speak objectively about what they’re doing, giving you the good and the bad side, rather than just hearing the advantage and having to find out yourself any disadvantages.

HB: From a trust perspective, do you think that pharma companies supply information in a transparent way?

DA: Not always, they clearly wish to promote their drug, and they can emphasise its advantages whilst minimising any drawbacks or expense.

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"It’s very valuable to be able to have other people’s ideas, rather than just sitting and listening to something yourself..."

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HB: Other than drug information, what else is or could be provided by pharma companies to support your work or create better interactions?

DA: Pharma companies are terribly constrained by ABPI guidelines and they always go to extreme lengths not to contravene any of that, no more takeaway pens and pads and things like that, as they seem in fear of any criticism from pharma regulators. But you need a time when you’re not distracted by other things in order to think about something new, and I find a discussion at a meeting is a communal learning where people can draw from experiences, such as from senior people who have seen something similar tried and failed before or people who have a wealth of clinical experience. It’s very valuable to be able to have other people’s ideas, rather than just sitting and listening to something yourself or reading something in isolation. So I think with that type of interaction you could get a more realistic view of a new product if you have the scepticism of your neighbours to share.

HB: What one thing could pharma companies provide you with through your engagement with them that would be most useful in the future?

DA: Information I think. It’s all down to information, indications, any special precautions, to see where a drug will fit, what it’s better than, where it has its shortcomings, if you could distil years of laboratory and clinical research into the important bits then that allows you to see whether it’s something you wish to use or not. And then if it is something you wish to use, then it would be useful to be directed towards the available peer-reviewed literature that is out there so you can make your own decision before you actually pick it up. Plus, it would also be useful to have some assistance with filling out these huge long forms to get a drug that’s licenced through a drug and therapeutics committee.

HB: Finally, do you think that techniques, such as tele-reach detailing and use of iPads and calls, add value to your knowledge and interaction with pharma?

DA: Well it comes back to information. If your iPad presents it in a clear, easy to understand, well laid out way with your graphs and bar charts, that allows you to get to the information then yes. I am not wild about cold calling. It’s modern forms of information that add value, so a new drug app might be the way to go.

The next interview in this series can be viewed here.

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About the interviewee:

Doctor A is a male Consultant who graduated in 1979. He specialises in anaesthetics, with a sub speciality in cardiothoracic.

This article was co-ordinated by Doctors.net.uk, the UK's largest and most active online professional network of doctors. Available to UK-GMC registered doctors in primary and secondary care, Doctors.net.uk has over 197,000 members and is an effective digital channel and a trusted and independent source of medical education, research and communication. It is used by approximately over 43,000 doctors every day, of which, over 10,000 are GPs.

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