Sales reps armed with an iPad can collect digital signatures for samples thanks to iRep, a physician detailing application set to launch in mid-February.

The iRep app, created by Veeva, a California-based SaaS CRM provider, “works with the same back-end, sample compliant systems as Veeva CRM,” said Matt Wallach, chief strategy officer, Veeva. Signing for samples on the iPad “is one of the standard functions” of iRep, and is a “validated part of the application,” said Wallach.

In addition to sampling, iRep includes a content viewer for e-detail materials, including interactive presentations and video content. Intouch Solutions, an interactive pharma marketing shop, is a partner and content provider for iRep, but other agencies are welcome to create content for the app as well, said Wallach. “We expect that every company will have us work with their agency…we will have nothing proprietary in the system,” said Wallach, adding that Veeva will publish guidelines for content creation on its website in February.

Wallach said four of the top 12 global pharmaceutical companies will hand iPads preloaded with iRep to their sales forces on February 15, when the product launches, but declined to name names. At a launch party last week, executives from Lilly, Pfizer, PDI, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Watson Pharmaceuticals were in attendance, according to Lisa Barbadora, PR director at Veeva.

In December, Abbott Laboratories, Medtronic and Boston Scientific handed out a combined 7,500 iPads to sales reps, according to a Wall Street Journal report, but Sanjay Pingle, president of Physicians Interactive, a physician marketing firm, said there hasn’t been a technological sea change in favor of the iPad, or any other tablet, just yet.

“We’re seeing more of the traditional tablet PC” in terms of what sales reps are using on a detail, although “there’s clearly a percentage” of companies who are betting on the tablet, said Pingle. “The bigger investment and opportunity is in serving information contextually, within the [physician’s] work flow, in the practice,” he said. 

Amy Lombardi, executive director, marketing, at contract sales firm PDI, said the company is in the piloting phase of using iPads with physicians, and aside from the absence of Adobe’s popular Flash software, there’s much to like about the iPad. “They’re not clunky, they turn on and power up instantly, and from a cost standpoint, they’re roughly the same compared to other hardware,” she said. PDI uses Veeva’s CRM system, and Lombardi says PDI is in the process of developing its own app for the iPad.