Primary care docs like GSK reps best, study finds

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Primary care physicians gave GlaxoSmithKline sales reps the highest marks on a quality scale, according to an SDI study.

Contenders included Pfizer and Merck at second and third in terms of quality, the study found. Last year, GSK reps came in third behind Pfizer and Merck. Reps were rated on a scale of one to seven, and GSK's average quality score went up from 5.5 in 2009 to 5.7 in 2010, based on responses from approximately 1,800 primary care docs, which include general practitioners, family medicine physicians and doctors of osteopathy .

Melissa Leonhauser, director of strategic marketing at SDI, said that increases in quality ranking typically correlate with an increase in sales calls or details to the physician group. “In this case, the decrease is somewhat notable as GSK was able to improve its quality score among primary care physicians even as the number of sales calls declined,” said Leonhauser, adding that GSK is not the only pharmaceutical company that decreased its sales calls over the last year.

In terms of the number of sales calls made to primary care docs, Pfizer had the most feet on the ground with 1.4 million calls for the 12 month period ending in in September 2010, a decrease of 13% compared with the previous 12 month period. Merck was second at 1.3 million, AstraZeneca was third at 1.2 million, and GSK reps went on 1.1 million sales calls for the period. Merck decreased its number of sales calls more than the others, cutting visits by 18%, according to SDI data.

"The majority of [GSK's] sales reps now have either customer-centered or portfolio-focused responsibilities, rather than product specific responsibilities," said Kevin Colgan, a GSK spokesperson. "In certain situations, rather than having multiple sales reps calling on a health system to present information on different GSK medicines, where appropriate, a single individual is now accountable for managing that account and bringing in specialists to meet specific customer requests and needs." Colgan added that GSK has introduced a respiratory care specialty team that supports the respiratory sales force, comprised of physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants and nurses.

GSK, which marketed Advair Diskus, Lovaza and Avodart most often to primary care docs, announced last summer that it would change the compensation structure of sales reps beginning in 2011, with a focus on customer evaluations rather than the individual achievement of sales targets.

GSK's efforts to create a more customer-centric sales force are profiled in the November issue of MM&M.

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