Study says sales reps face hurdles with oncologists

Ganesh Vedarajan
Ganesh Vedarajan

A study by consulting research firm ZS Associates shows the wedge between oncologists and sales reps has gotten so large that oncology is the most restrictive specialty for the second year in a row. The latest data indicate that 65% of US oncologists have moderate-to-severe access restrictions on sales rep visits, while about 58% of cardiologists and 47% of primary care physicians have hard-to-reach rules.

The annual oncologist check-in found that new drugs are a key way for reps to book time with doctors, and that reps touting a mix of old and new drugs also have a better chance of landing a sales meeting than those vying to discuss a drug with which oncologists are familiar but have nothing new to discuss.

Adding to the findings' urgency: The newness halo has a six-month lifespan, after which reps of the formerly new drugs begin to lose their advantage.

ZS Associates said the key to getting doctors to open their schedules for older drugs is to treat the medications like new ones. Ganesh Vedarajan, managing principal for oncology and specialty therapeutic practices at  ZS, said manufacturers can do this by thinking holistically about the practices reps approach. “It's about helping the practice...not just about the specialist,” he said.

This means providing materials for office managers, nurses, caregivers and patients, as well as information for the doctors.

Vedarajan added that drug makers could benefit from a sales force able to discuss medical topics, such as tumor types, as opposed to having a knowledge base limited to product information.