India is next stop for GSK sales and marketing overhaul

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GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) will bring its cleaned-up marketing and sales focus to India by following steps it took in China as it looks to shake off the damage its reputation took with the massive $489 million fine it paid last year for bribing doctors and hospitals to buy its drugs.

The Times of India, in an interview with Annaswamy Vaidheesh, vice-president, South Asia & managing director of GSK Pharmaceuticals India, said the steps are based on a new healthcare marketing code covering doctors and the company's field staff.

That means ending sales target incentives for its 3,000 customer reps, as well as speaking engagement payments to doctors.

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Outgoing CEO Andrew Witty has spoken repeatedly since the China bribery scandal about the need to reform almost every aspect of the drug industry sales model, and to focus on volumes and payer negotiations over and above the traditional, high-pressure sales efforts aimed at doctors.

In China, the company last year eliminated sales-based compensation incentives for reps and doctor speaking fees, while at the same time running aggressive compliance operations in-house.

GSK has taken a hard hit on sales in China, though executives in the firm contend that the actions have reshaped relations with China's policymakers and will pay off in the long run.

In India however, government reimbursement and insurance lag China with most patients paying out-of-pocket--making doctors, clinics and hospitals an even more important driver of sales.

One way GSK plans to tackle sales in India is through a "Patient Focused Selling" program, which has already been in the works through a pilot study that relies heavily on digital outreach, including to sales reps "in a more systematic and consistent manner," and a push into rural markets, Vaidheesh told the newspaper.

On the physician side, GSK will hire more than 25 doctors across practices to answer questions at medical seminars from peers on the use and details of various therapies.

"These steps will introduce more transparency into our marketing and educational efforts, help physicians to make informed choices, and clear the mistrust which patients have," Vaidheesh told the Times of India.

"Given the new environment in India, we are re-engineering the business model in a way that we are able to maintain margins but at the same time deliver value of relevance to our stakeholders--physicians, hospitals and the government. We are coming out from supply constraints, and are on a recovery path with 12-13% growth recorded in the last two quarters."

- here's the story from the Times of India

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