Oncology remains most restrictive specialty for second year

EVANSTON, Ill., July 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Oncology remains the most restrictive specialty for pharmaceutical sales representative access this year for the second year in a row. This according to the spring 2013 AccessMonitor™ report from global consulting firm ZS Associates.

The report found that about 65 percent of oncologists in the United States placed moderate-to-severe restrictions on visits from pharmaceutical sales reps. By comparison, about 58 percent of cardiologists and 47 percent of primary care physicians restrict rep access to the same degree. Oncology is the most restrictive of the 20 common medical specialties measured in the report. By comparison, only 17 percent of oncologists restricted access to reps in 2008.

"Today, the average rep can see an oncologist only seven or eight times per year – and even the best reps visit oncologists just once per month," said Ganesh Vedarajan, principal and leader of the oncology and specialty therapeutics practice at ZS Associates. "Access has continued to decline due to an increased number of oncology reps trying to reach the doctors and an increasing number of doctors joining institutions that severely restrict rep access."

Access to physicians overall has declined consistently since the first survey in 2008. In 2013, 45 percent of the prescribers placed significant restrictions on rep access, compared to 35 percent of prescribers one year ago and 23 percent in 2008.

AccessMonitor™ incorporates sales-call reports from more than 200 different U.S. pharmaceutical sales teams. The report examines how often approximately 325,000 physicians and other prescribers meet with pharmaceutical sales representatives who visit them.

Access varies across the country

Access to oncologists is challenging for oncology sales reps throughout the United States. However, it is most restricted in areas with major cancer centers. For example, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are all located in metro areas that fall in the bottom 20 percent in terms of access to oncologists.

"Access has historically been challenging in academic institutions, so it's no surprise these places remain restrictive," said Vedarajan. "However, in recent years, we've seen a similar decrease in access to large group practices as they attempt to improve efficiencies and streamline their business models. In the same vein, parts of Texas, Georgia and Florida also have high access restrictions."

Access varies across biopharmaceutical companies

While access is down overall, oncologists do not necessarily restrict all pharmaceutical companies or reps uniformly. According to AccessMonitor™, several factors, such as carrying a newly launched drug or broader portfolio of products, may open doors to more frequent physician visits.

Teams of sales reps carrying at least one new product are able to call on oncologists 33 percent more frequently than reps without new products (10.4 times per year compared to 7.8 times per year). However, this window closes quickly – after six months, teams with a new product are only able to call on oncologists 5 percent more frequently than reps not carrying launch products.

"While it is not possible to always have a new launch product, new information is a way to open doors," said Jon Roffman, associate principal with ZS Associates. "What can help is for pharmacos to be thoughtful about their ongoing studies and data publication strategy."

According to AccessMonitor™, oncology reps with three or more products are able to visit physicians an average of 10 times per year. But those carrying just one or two products only see physicians an average of seven times per year. On average, a rep carrying three or more products is twice as likely to have access to even the most restrictive oncologists (26 percent vs. 13 percent for reps carrying one or two products).

Implications for biopharmaceutical companies

Every company may not have a launch product or the ability to promote multiple products, but the key to access is for pharmaceutical manufacturers to think differently about how reps can deliver unique, tailored and relevant offerings to oncology providers.

"There are several areas where manufacturers can help oncologists, but these needs vary by practice setting, geography and the type of cancer they treat," said Roffman. 

Companies must adapt their message and approach to meet the varying and evolving needs of their customers. In particular, companies can focus on three areas to improve access. First, they must rethink their approach to academic institutions and large practices.

"The traditional one-to-one selling is no longer sufficient and companies are piloting different account management models to increase the customization and relevance to a large customer," said Roffman.

Second, pharmaceutical companies must customize the portfolio of products that each sales rep carries to become more customer-focused. For example, some companies have evolved their product-focused sales teams to become more tumor-focused. This enables reps to tailor their offerings to particular treatment areas of interest to each oncologist.

Third, to maintain long-term access and relevance to oncologists, companies must develop new, innovative customer engagement models – designed not from the perspective of the pharmaceutical company, but from the perspective of the customer. The trend is toward improving the sales process to optimize customer experience.

Roffman said, "Many companies are building systematic ways to identify the drivers of positive customer experience, train the field organization to customize their local engagement approach and integrate digital approaches, inside sales and other channels to enable the field organization to engage with customers based on their unique preferences."

For more information on AccessMonitor™, including an executive summary of the spring 2013 report, please visit: http://bit.ly/ZS-AccessMonitor2013.

About ZS Associates

ZS Associates is a global leader in sales and marketing consulting, outsourcing, technology and software. For almost 30 years, ZS has helped companies across a range of industries get the most out of their sales and marketing organizations. From 20 offices around the world, ZS experts use analytics and deep expertise to help companies make smart decisions quickly and cost effectively. ZS comprises multiple affiliated legal entities. Learn more at: www.zsassociates.com.

About AccessMonitor™

AccessMonitor™ is a proprietary tool that incorporates the call reports from more than 200 different U.S. pharmaceutical sales teams and more than 40,000 sales reps. It examines how often approximately 325,000 physicians and other prescribers meet with pharmaceutical sales representatives who visit them and then classifies those doctors into one of three groups: 1) "accessible" (physicians who met with more than 70 percent of reps who call on them); 2) "access restricted" (between 31 and 70 percent); and 3) "severely access restricted" (30 percent or less).The report equips companies with data to make the best use of sales and marketing resources in a systematic way and includes sales operations, field management and marketing strategies. In addition to the bi-annual national industry reports, participating companies also receive a prescriber-level, company-specific AccessMonitor™ report that provides customer insights based on industry data that is processed, cleaned and anonymized according to a rigorous set of rules. To learn more or to participate in the next round of reporting, visit http://bit.ly/ZS-AccessMonitor.