Merck, Novartis reps to target payers

You know the old close-a-door, open-a-window adage. Well, it appears Big Pharma does, too. At least two companies are refocusing their sales efforts away from the doctors who write the prescriptions and toward the insurers that pay for them.

It's not surprising, really. Pharma reps are finding more and more barriers to selling to docs the old-fashioned way. Why not target those who hold the purse strings? After all, when insurers choose not to cover a medication, docs often stop prescribing it.

So, as part of its big restructuring announced last Thursday, Novartis will be sending out more sales reps to third-party payers. The reps will arrive with data in hand, trying to persuade the big wallets that Novartis meds are worth the price. "[I]f you are organized around the physician, you are missing the key influencer," Joe Jiminez, chief of Novartis' pharma division, told The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, Merck has been running pilot programs in which reps are assigned to spend more time with third-party payers. "We think the focus should be on the Medcos of the world," Ken Frazier, chief of Merck's global pharma, told analysts during its annual briefing last week. If these efforts succeed, drug makers will be able to influence many doctors with just a few sales calls to powerful payers. Sales up? Maybe. Costs down? Most likely. More sales reps out of a job? We'll have to wait and see.

- get the Novartis article from The Wall Street Journal
- read this item on Merck's "new commercial model" at Pharmalot

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