Interest in branded speaker programs wanes

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Interest in attending sponsored speaker programs in a traditional dinner program format is waning, says medical meetings producer Pri-Med. Across 37 Pri-Med events in 2010, nearly 8,000 physicians opted into at least one pharmaceutical-sponsored promotional speaker program, the firm said. A 2009 survey completed by physicians as they were leaving branded programs at 12 meetings suggested much higher numbers.

Who's the typical clinician sitting in on these events? According to a 2010 study of more than 2,238 speaker program attendees, there were only slight demographic differences between those clinicians who opted into sponsored speaker programs and those who did not.

Program attendees skewed slightly more toward hospital-based or hospital-owned practices. In addition, many were active and “high value” to industry (read: high-prescribing).

It's well known that more office practices are putting up barriers to sales reps and that the number of physicians averse to such interactions is climbing. Nearly one in three physicians is hard to reach, Pri-Med says, meaning they are either heavily restrictive of industry interactions or don't see reps at all.

Away from their practices, though, it's a different story: Pri-Med found that physicians who are most restrictive regarding interacting with industry while in practice, often do opt in to branded speaker programs when already at an event where these promotional programs are available: three-quarters of “restricted” physicians and 58% of “no-see” physicians attended at least one promotional program.

They were often drawn by an interest in the therapeutic area. Takeaway: brand managers targeting hard-to-reach physicians should ensure invitations include clinical highlights rather than product-specific content.

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