Doctors’ views on pharma: part three

Hannah Blake interviews Doctor C

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

(Continued from “Doctors’ views on pharma: part two”)

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 third interview is with a male oncology consultant, who graduated in 1997 and specialises in breast, colorectal, lung and skin cancer, as well as urology. He will be referred to as Doctor C in this piece.

In this piece, Doctor C shares his views on how the most important characteristic of a drug representative should be emotional intelligence. This is because doctors have fairly limited time to speak to drug reps and therefore this time should be spent wisely, sharing information that has not already been shared before.

Interview summary

HB: How do you typically engage with pharma companies?

DC: I think most of the interaction is formally via the drug reps. So I normally see them on a Tuesday morning, and I see probably a different one each week, maybe sometimes two in one week, and it’s usually someone I know already who comes to visit me and one of the products that I use on a regular basis.

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

DC: Someone who I already know very well comes to see me and they know I know about the data, so they don’t go on about the data, but they talk about the stuff around the drug, issues relating to side effects, or why I’m using this as a drug. And then basically if I’ve got any technical questions then I leave them to organise a meeting with the medical representative on the company. So that’s probably a good one.


“If they start trying to convince me to use the drug they’re just not going to get anywhere.”


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

DC: I think emotional intelligence is probably the most important phrase I would use. So that one who comes in and you can pick up any drug which they’re going to show me data about, I know it inside and out so that’s probably the last thing they should do. To realise or make a judgement about whether I’m using or not using the drug, which in most of the cases I’m using the drug, and use that as a baseline for the further discussions. Because if they start trying to convince me to use the drug they’re just not going to get anywhere, with me anyway that is.

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

DC: The trouble is when a pharma rep comes to visit me by the time they’re promoting their drug I know all about this drug, so really it’s only the medical people that can really talk to me about other stuff, such as clinical trials. So by the time a rep comes along it’s mostly all about their money access to the drug or the technicalities of prescribing the drug as in whether you have to go to the Cancer Drug Fund, or things like that.

HB: How do you like to receive information from your drug rep?

DC: I’ll be honest, the clinical trial information I normally like to receive myself is either from a medical paper or a conference. But if the drug rep has the original paper then I’d prefer that, but they don’t tend to do that anymore these days as they now have the flash presentations on iPad, which I don’t like.

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

DC: I think they’re honest, so I would say yes they do.

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

DC: I would say finding and guiding us through the access of drugs is probably one thing. So for example, if we want to get it on to the Cancer Drug Fund list of drugs that’s a quite good thing to look at, business cases for getting drugs onto formularies, that’s usually quite good. If there’s some issue regarding the drug is more expensive that its competitor, but the way it’s administered saves money in the bigger picture, then yes that information would be quite good.


“A good interaction is when you talk about what’s going on out there and get to know the other person.”


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

DC: Cheaper drugs. I think the main importance of the pharma industry and a drug rep is that for me they’re the link between the company and us basically. So there’s someone I know I can go to if I need help, or whether that’s about some toxicity, or whether it’s about access.

It’s not really about when they come they’re going to talk about the drug au naudseam. It’s literally just, “Hello, this is who I am, we’re going to build a relationship over time and get to know each other.” Not even necessarily talking about the drugs, but talking about us as individuals – I would say that as well is one of those things.

A good interaction is when you talk about what’s going on out there and get to know the other person so that you do develop the relationship, and then when you do need their help for a particular situation you go to them because you have a connection.

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

DC: A little bit. I think the industry has over-egged them, but I don’t find that they’re useful to tell the truth.

The fourth interview in this series can be viewed here.

About the interviewee:

Doctor C is a male oncology consultant, who graduated in 1997 and specialises in breast, colorectal, lung and skin cancer, as well as urology.

This article was co-ordinated by, the UK’s largest and most active online professional network of doctors. Available to UK-GMC registered doctors in primary and secondary care, 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.

How can the communication between pharma and physicians be improved?