UK doctors feel ‘misunderstood’ by pharma

Pharma companies will have to work harder to build positive relationships with general practitioners in England’s NHS and shake off their ‘bad pharma’ reputation, according to a new survey.

Four out of 10 GPs polled by healthcare intelligence company Binley’s said they have a negative perception of the pharma industry and feel that drugmakers did not understand “their key challenges and working practices.”

The ‘Perceptions of Pharma’ survey was conducted among 551 GPs and also found that among those who said they felt negatively about the pharma industry, 43 percent believed drugmakers “had a different agenda” to their own and focused on “sales and profit-making.”

The results of the poll echo the findings of an earlier survey in patient groups from around the world – reported earlier this year – which found that pharma’s pricing policy was “the most contentious issue” affecting the industry’s reputation.

Interestingly, however just 12 percent said pharma companies should modify their pricing policies to reduce costs, with more (18 per cent) saying that increased funding of GP education would be the most helpful measure offered by industry. 12 percent of respondents also wanted pharma to help educate patients to self-manage conditions.

All told, 20 percent of GPs said pharma does not understand how they work or appreciate their needs and challenges, while 17 percent also felt there was a lack of understanding about prescribing budget pressures.

Interestingly, it seems that more interaction with pharma companies seemed to improve the industry’s standing. More than half (56 per cent) of doctors who never met with a sales rep had a negative opinion of the industry, compared to 32 percent of those who did so regularly.

Almost two thirds of GPs never met with pharma reps, with 63 percent of that group blaming a lack of time and 19 percent indicating that was a result of practice policy.

GPs who did engage with pharma companies regularly – 36 percent of the total group – were generally satisfied, however, with AstraZeneca (AZ), Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck and Eli Lilly achieving the highest ratings, according to Binley’s.

“Our survey shows that securing face-to-face meetings with GPs continues to be a big challenge for pharma,” said Sarah Eglington, healthcare intelligence director at Binley’s.

“Cynicism about the industry abounds, particularly among the many GPs who do not regularly engage with pharma sales reps,” she added.

A cohort of 169 practice nurses was also included in the survey, and once again they reported that pharma could be most helpful to their work by providing “prescribing information specifically targeted at nurses and funding for training.”

The nurses cited their biggest challenges as rising patient expectations (76 percent) and increased administrative duties and box-ticking (70 percent).

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