CME providers are regularly urged to develop relationships with pharmaceutical company representatives, with the intent of teaching them about what is and is not acceptible practice in producing industry-supported CME. Those CME providers who complain that building such relationships has become impossible because of the proliferation of drug reps now have some numbers to back them up, courtesy of McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm.

In an article published in the third issue of the 2002 McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey consultants Martin E. Elling, Holly J. Fogle, Charles S. McKhann, and Chris Simon note that between 1995 and 2001, the number of pharmaceutical reps doubled to 80,000. They further note that this population explosion has resulted in a sales force that tends to be poorly informed and generally under-trained. The authors write:

“In one extreme example, a physician told us that eight reps had given him samples of an arthritis/pain medication they were trying to sell but could recall no clinical details from their pitches. Doctors also want to know what patients think about a drug, how much they pay for it, whether they comply with its treatment regime, what HMOs will pay for, and how HMO formularies (approved lists of drugs) are structured. Yet the reps’ knowledge is limited to the sales pitches devised by marketers at corporate headquarters.”

If the reps barely know their own products, it seems fair to guess that they’ll be deeply unaware of the niceties of CME/industry partnerships. The good news is that the authors indicate that the pharmaceutical industry is beginning to realize that its present sales model is not working well, and that various sales and marketing experiments are under way to create stronger relationships with physicians—a situation that will at least allow for the possibility of improved relationships with CME providers. The full article can be viewed by clicking here. Free registration is required.