Post-reform, pharma will market to payers

In all the post-game analysis of how healthcare reform will affect the drugs business, one new theme has emerged: The legislation's impact on pharma marketing.

Apparently, experts think reform will end up giving insurance companies and other payers a lot more influence over which drugs are prescribed. And if payers are the ones in the driver's seat, then drugmakers' selling strategies will have to be overhauled. Goodbye, doctor detailing; hello, payer presentations.

Unfortunately, tailoring sales to this new environment may result in more sales-rep layoffs. "Over the next several years U.S. pharmaceutical companies should trim another 15 [percent] to 20 percent of their sales forces," says Chris Wright, a principal at market researcher ZS Associates (in an interview with "They must ...prepare to sell to an increasingly diverse group of health insurance companies, government payers like Medicare and Medicaid, and other opinion leaders." And this on top of the many thousands of reps already laid off.

The forecast isn't exactly a bolt from the blue, however. Merck and Novartis have both launched sales initiatives that target formulary-gatekeepers at insurance companies rather than prescribing doctors. And late last year, Ernst & Young took a hard look at pharma marketing and concluded that reps should sell to payers rather than doctors--and drugmakers should do some comparative research to generate data specifically for that purpose. Fortunately for pharma, there's time to prepare: The major provisions of reform don't take effect until 2014.

- see the analysis at Pharma Reform
- get more from Eye for Pharma


ALSO: The first changes under the new healthcare law will be easy to see and not long in coming: There'll be $250 rebate checks for seniors in the Medicare drug coverage gap, and young adults moving from college to work will be able to stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26. Report