Pfizer lets reps race with e-sampling system

In the ongoing tussle between human and machine--in this case, pharma reps and online marketing--Pfizer ($PFE) has awarded new points to the machine. But as the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports, the company has given reps the chance to beat the machine to the punch.

Pfizer has set up an elecronic sampling program, which allows doctors to order drug samples online. That's not too unusual; Merck ($MRK) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) are also handling some drug samples that way. After all, with new restrictions on pharma reps popping up all over the place--including "no reps allowed" policies at some teaching hospitals and physician practices--online may be the only convenient place some doctors can interact with drugmakers.

To placate reps who might feel threatened by the e-sampling system, Pfizer set up a pinch-hitting option. When a doctor orders samples online, the order goes to that doc's Pfizer rep. The human salesperson then has 48 hours to handle the sample order. If the rep doesn't deliver, then the e-system fulfills it.

- read the WSJ Health Blog post