Doctors’ views on pharma: part four
Hannah Blake interviews Doctor D
Here is the fourth anonymous interview out of five healthcare professionals from a range of different demographics, to find out how they typically engage with pharma.
(Continued from “Doctors’ views on pharma: part three”)
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.
Our fourth healthcare professional, known as Doctor D for this article, is a female Speciality Doctor who specialises in geriatric medicine. She graduated from medical education in 1985.
For Doctor D, face-to-face communication with drug representatives is most beneficial, but what she says lends more credibility to these meetings, is when they include patients and physicians who have used the drug before and have a more in-depth knowledge to pass on to those doctors less experienced in that area.
HB: How do you typically engage with pharma companies?
DD: Probably the most frequent one is face-to-face, just something like the grand round, the weekly clinical meeting we have is sponsored, or our journal club, or bigger meetings, things like the British Geriatric Society annual meetings where they would have drug reps there. Online via doctors.net is probably the other way, because obviously it is part of being sponsored on doctors.net that we open their bulletins, and that includes sponsored links. That’s the other way that I would probably get contact. Occasionally, you see drug reps on the corridor as well, those you’ve got to know who you acknowledge and then maybe pass the time of the day. They ask you where you’re up to with something or you might be able to catch them and say, “Have you managed to get that piece of information for me or whatever?”
“…it’s of value to hear from people on the ground that have used a particular drug or are more up to date on the evidence maybe than I might be…”
HB: Based on your experience, can you describe a really good interaction you’ve had with pharma?
DD: I like it when it’s more substantial, rather than just face-to-face quick, so I think probably the most significant one recently was when the reps for dabigatran, which is a novel anticoagulant for stroke, because that’s my main interest, arranged a clinical meeting. Yes they were advertising their drug, but they were also getting local experts to come and talk about latest evidence. So it just lends that little bit more credibility. I know that there’s people you could say are maybe influenced in that they’re doing it for that drug company, but I think it’s of value to hear from people on the ground that have used a particular drug or are more up to date on the evidence maybe than I might be. That I find easier than just a quick conversation, where it can sometimes feel as if it’s one-sided, because if you’re not quick off the mark then you’re being told things without really knowing what to challenge yourself.
HB: What common characteristics define the pharma representatives with whom you typically have interactions with?
DD: Not pushy, not aggressive, it’s particularly if you question something they say, they’re happy to go back and find out for you rather than to give you flannel and almost say how dare you ask that question. Ones that will actually get back to you with whatever you ask. People who you feel are more believable rather than that you feel they’re just marketing. I don’t do rep meetings and I don’t have a slot in the week where I organise to see reps. But I’ve had reps who will then come opportunistically on the ward, when there’s a quite clear policy in our hospital that you can’t do that, who will then try to flannel me, “Well I was thinking about giving you this,” and not only is it not convenient, but it’s the fact that they have ignored what is hospital policy and my policy to get to me. It gets my hackles up such that I won’t interact with them at all. The bottom line is that I want to feel I am in control, and I’m not being taken for a ride.
“…the information would have more credibility if it was, for instance, presented at a speciality meeting…”
HB: Would you value details and data from pharma around late stage trials activity and the new drugs pipeline etc?
DD: In areas of interest maybe, but not in general. You’ve got to be able to have some knowledge to take this type of data on board and be able to evaluate the information. I would want things to have moved on a little bit further and for the people in my speciality to take things on board before I get to it. Otherwise you can get overwhelmed.
HB: So if it was within your speciality, how would you like to receive the information and through what channels?
DD: I like written information because then I can take time to think about it, so either an update on the latest trial by email or information that can be handed to me. But I think probably the information would have more credibility if it was, for instance, presented at a speciality meeting, so that it was hot off the press there rather than just in a drug rep quick snappy conversation.
HB: From a trust perspective, do you think that pharma companies supply information in a transparent way?
DD: Difficult one. I think you take that on an individual basis I think. Some people I feel more secure with than others. I think it’s probably easier, or at least I find it easier, not to feel swayed now that there isn’t so much in the way of other incentives, in that you’re not getting all your freebies that we used to get. With transparency, I think you’ve always got to be able to look at the detail and I think they have got a message, it’s marketing isn’t it? They’ve got a message to get across, but I always want to be able to read the detail. So yes to a degree is probably the answer to that.
“I think it’s probably easier, or at least I find it easier, not to feel swayed now that there isn’t so much in the way of other incentives…”
HB: Other than drug information what else is or could be provided by pharma companies to support your work or create better interactions?
DD: More communication, because it’s the practical use of drugs sometimes that’s more important than just the fact that the drug reps is marketing the latest thing. Things like some of the microsites that are on doctors.net that drug companies have sponsored, which gives information about a particular disease, are helpful. Yes, there’s a link with the drug that they’re promoting, but there’s also lots of other information there as well, such as educational information, e-learning sites, which broadens out what you’re trying to engage with, and I have found those useful in the past.
HB: My last question is do you think that techniques, such as tele-reach detailing, use of iPads and calls, add value to your knowledge and interaction with pharma?
DD: I’m going to come across as an old fogie here I think. I think I’m okay on the net, and e-learning and things like that, but in terms of iPads and calls, probably not for myself. I prefer written stuff, so for me it’s a no, but I can see that’s possibly the way the industry is going.
Read the last interview in this series here.
About the interviewee:
Doctor D is a female Speciality Doctor who specialises in geriatric medicine. She graduated from medical education in 1985.
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.
Other than drug information, what else could be provided by pharma companies to support doctor’s work?