Drugmakers weigh more use of digital

About 70% of pharmaceutical companies broadly use key account managers to market drugs to healthcare providers.
About 70% of pharmaceutical companies broadly use key account managers to market drugs to healthcare providers.

The majority of pharmaceutical companies have developed key account management teams that market drugs to large health systems but the retooled sales model isn't innovative enough to make up for dwindling access to healthcare providers, according to a new report from Strategy&, a PwC consulting business.

About 70% of 150 pharma executives in Europe and the US said they are broadly using key account management models, while 64% of the companies represented in the survey said they also use a clinical sales force approach, which entails employing sales reps with substantial knowledge of specific disease areas and relevant therapies. But only about 44% of the drugmakers are broadly using digital tools.

“There is widespread hope that digital is going to be the most fundamental part of the selling model going forward,” said Rick Edmunds, a senior partner at Strategy&.

That conflicting view is one barrier that is keeping pharma companies from broadly testing new digital tools that may have the potential to better evolve the traditional pharmaceutical selling model. The “hype factor” around digital continues to drive interest among drugmakers looking for new marketing avenues—65% of respondents say they will increase digital interactions—yet the lack of proven tools and a validated roadmap also makes it a challenge, Edmunds said.

“A lot is being thrown against the wall but not much is sticking,” he added.

Pharmaceutical companies started evaluating their sales models about a decade ago as they prepared for the drop-off in drug patents. Other changes in the market, such as rising costs, provider consolidation and a generally more complex sector, are further fueling a need to replace the traditional model in which a sales rep meets one-on-one with a doctor and results are largely measured by the number of prescription written by the physician.  

In February at the ePharma Summit in New York City an executive at drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo said the company employs 10 key account managers who market drugs to 70 health systems but noted that not all providers are making prescribing and formulary decisions at the parent company level yet.

Of the executives surveyed, 83% said they expect to restructure their commercial model over the next three years.