DOCTORS SAY THAT meetings and events are the most effective way for pharmaceutical sales reps to get their marketing messages across, according to a study released in February by Verispan, a healthcare informatics firm in Newtown, Pa. Verispan surveyed 3,177 physicians in 16 specialties. The survey was not sent to a random sample of physicians; the respondents are consultants on retainer to Verispan.

Doctors were asked to rate the relative effectiveness of eight tactics — traditional detailing (such as product discussion), gifts and giveaways, samples, detail-related product literature (for example, visual aids), disease state management programs, support material for patients, meetings and events, and Internet initiatives. Overall, respondents said that meetings and events had the most impact on their prescribing behavior; with more than 66 percent saying that they found meetings and events more effective than traditional detailing.

The “Meetings and Events” category, which was defined very broadly, encompassed all kinds of meetings, from educational activities sponsored by academic institutions to corporate-supported symposia to luncheon meetings.

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Respondents were also asked their opinion about the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. It should come as no surprise to pharma meeting planners that doctors were less than lukewarm about the guidelines.

Of those who were familiar with the code, 26 percent voiced some form of support, while more than 40 percent expressed opposition. According to verbatim responses accompanying the survey data, physicians are specifically concerned about the code's effect on meetings and events. Many respondents are also especially unhappy with the code's stipulation that pharma firms should no longer invite healthcare professionals' spouses and family members to events. These responses bear out anecdotal reports from pharma compliance execs and meeting planners.

The complete study, which includes, for example, a breakdown of what types of meetings and events physicians found most effective, is available for a list price of $40,000. (The price of the data varies depending on a pharma firm's relationship with Verispan.)

For more information, contact Rob Schneller at (800) 982-5613 or robert.schneller@verispan.com.