How doctors prefer to engage with pharma: part four

In our fourth interview looking at the engagement between doctors and the pharma industry, Hannah Blake interviews an oncologist from the United Kingdom, who will be referred to as Doctor D throughout.

(Continued from “How doctors prefer to engage with pharma: part three“)

In order to get honest feedback, we shall be keeping the doctors anonymous.

Interview summary

HB: What information do you most need regularly from the pharma industry?

DD: I think the most important thing for me is pipeline or up and coming drugs, so drugs that are likely to be available in the near future but aren’t at the moment, and information on the timescales.

Also, the other thing that’s useful to know on the same topic or area is a concept of where things are up to, such as if they’re expensive drugs information on funding and the best routes to gain access.

HB: How would you like this information to be shared with you?

DD: It’s a good question. At the moment I get information mostly through drug reps, which is not necessarily the most effective way of getting it. Industry sponsored advertising or relevant conferences are probably the best ways of getting access to that.

HB: Conversely, how do you want to be able to feedback to pharma or ask ad hoc questions?

DD: At the moment I do that via people I know, by dropping them an email. The issue is with pharmaceuticals companies where you don’t have a contact and that’s difficult, and sometimes the pharma websites are very difficult to navigate. So if you want to go and look up how to get in contact with somebody in relation to a certain product at a certain company it’s very difficult to do so. So I think a lot of that could be done just very easily via company websites.


“At the moment I get information mostly through drug reps, which is not necessarily the most effective way…”


HB: You are a member of an online professional network for doctors – do you feel this adds value?

DD: They often have good online textbooks and other such material which is quite useful, and I’ve used the education packages in the past too. I don’t really use anything that engages with pharma per se.

HB: Do you think pharma should be trying to build its own online doctor communities?

DD: No, I don’t think that would be the ideal way to go and I don’t think that the take up will be very good.

There is so much material available on the internet, so much stuff that one gets bombarded with nowadays, that I think another portal to access information is not needed. It’s almost the opposite, because it’s hard to find just one place you can go to rather than multiple sites to try and find the same information. So I just don’t think that people would want that or use that. Others might feel differently but I personally wouldn’t want another site for information.

HB: In the digital age do you think that we still need pharma sales reps?

DD: I generally don’t think from a doctor’s point of view they’re needed to get the information that we want. So if you’re looking for specific information about whatever drug, whatever product, whatever trial, I don’t think they are any more the best resource because everything is so easily available.


“…independent advisors are a very useful resource because when you have conversations with them you feel it’s a bit more even handed.”


From the other side, from the pharmaceutical side, there is a definite advantage of getting that 15 minutes with somebody to remind them of their products, to remind them that they’re going to come along to do that, it’s available and to build a relationship which I know doctors feel doesn’t alter their prescribing habits but probably does.

So from different sides, different things are important.

HB: Finally if you could completely redesign the way that doctors and the pharma industry interact what would this look like?

DD: I think it needs to be done on a different level. So the model that I like is when pharmaceutical companies employ independent medical advisors, so they’re not sales reps, but they’re often clinicians who are able to talk about all products, and are able to talk about all areas rather than drug reps who can only talk specific licenced indications. These independent advisors are a very useful resource because when you have conversations with them you feel it’s a bit more even handed. So I think if I was to redesign the way that worked I would have them available to talk to, to deal with, to give talks to doctors and engage in a very different way than we have at the moment, which is just a more balanced approach, and therefore I think as a doctor you might trust who you’re talking to a little bit more and take it on board more.

The next interview in this series can be viewed here.



About the interviewee:

Doctor E is a male Oncologist based in the United Kingdom.

This article was coordinated by, the UK’s largest professional network of doctors. Available to UK-registered doctors in primary and secondary care, is an effective digital channel and a trusted source of medical education, research and communication. It is used by approximately 40,000 doctors every day.

In what ways could communication between pharma and physicians be improved?