In its marketing efforts, pharma has traditionally devoted the lion’s share of its attention — and resources — to efforts targeting doctors. But with nurse practitioners and physician assistants seeing their roles expand within the healthcare ecosystem, they’re calling on the industry to pay more attention to them.

Based on a survey of physicians in MedData Group’s HCP database, a new report from the IQVIA-owned organization found that a whopping 97% of physicians believe the roles of NPs and PAs have expanded since they began their careers in medicine. The study affirmed what many NPs and PAs have been saying for years: that pharma needs to do a better job of keeping them in the educational and promotional loop.

“Why would anyone trying to market a product that both saves lives and makes money leave out over 400,000 people who can prescribe their product?” asked David Mittman, former president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). “Every PA and NP in America can prescribe, so why aren’t you marketing to the same degree to us as you are to doctors?”

NPs and PAs have long called on marketers to include them in educational and promotional pitches. Recently, they’ve upped their efforts to convince legislators to adjust regulations around how NPs and PAs can practice.

A reason for this is that the pandemic spotlighted the NP/PA plight in a way that hadn’t occurred in the past. In several states, governors suspended practice requirements for NPs and PAs that bound them to the supervision of doctors. This had the effect of expanding the number of qualified healthcare providers in emergency rooms and the ICU at a time of great need.

Mittman argued that the change highlighted the need for NPs and PAs to have the freedom to practice in places that need them most, including rural areas and low-income communities.

The survey also found that 75% of NPs were making independent decisions on patient visits via telehealth, including calls around diagnoses and prescriptions.

“Our roles are expanding and increasing. We’re filling slots that we never filled before in different areas, in different places,” Mittman said. “And we’re becoming more autonomous in what we’re allowed to do legislatively.”

While NPs and PAs have been able to prescribe medications, pharma rarely paid them much mind. Mittman argued that needs to change.

“The patient loses because they may not get the right medication, and the company loses because their product isn’t even known about by someone who can prescribe it,” Mittman explained. “So on all levels, the entire system loses.”

As for his advice to pharma marketers, Mittman started with “realize we’re there.”

“Utilize our KOLs and talk with our leaders — our board leaders and our state leaders — and tell us what you need and how we can work together,” he continued. “Engage our students and support our state organizations in some way. We’re really easy to get to. It would benefit everybody, even the patient.”