British docs weigh in on pharma, and it's no better than most U.S. opinions

Pharma is snookered in England too. British healthcare providers (HCPs) are just as unhappy with drugmakers as everyone else. The newest survey finds that more than 40% of U.K. doctors view the industry negatively, reports healthcare data intelligence firm Binley's.

The negative perception was higher among doctors who don't meet with pharma reps--56% of that group held dim views of the industry. That compared with just 32% of those GPs (general practitioners) who do see reps regularly.

"Great communications are always two-way in nature and this is much easier to achieve in face-to-face meetings," said Sarah Eglington, healthcare intelligence director at Binley's/Wilmington Healthcare, in an email interview. "Naturally, once the human touch is removed, this free-flowing exchange of needs, wants and ideas becomes more tricky. The challenge then for pharma is to work out exactly how HCPs, or more precisely how different demographic groups of HCPs, prefer to engage."

She noted that GPs indicated strongly that they preferred a "partnerships not products" approach.

Binley's pharma perception study, its first, turned up several specific complaints--even accusations--from doctors: Pharma companies focus too much on sales and profit making (43%); they don't appreciate doctors' needs and challenges (20%); and they don't understand doctors' prescribing budget pressures (17%).

Not surprisingly, like their counterparts in the U.S., doctors in England are meeting with sales reps less and less, with almost two-thirds confirming they do not meet pharma reps at all. The number one reason given by 63% of them was lack of time.

One consolation: The 36% of GPs who do still meet with pharma reps were generally satisfied with their industry interactions. They gave AstraZeneca ($AZN), Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Merck ($MRK) and Eli Lilly & Co. ($LLY) the highest ratings.

Binley's asked what pharma companies could do to help them and the response included funding education (18%), helping educate patients on self-care (12%) and reducing drug costs (12%).

"The surprise is that despite reasonably high levels of investment over time by pharma in their engagement with HCPs, there is still so much dissatisfaction," Eglington said. "We believe that gaining a full understanding of the audience first, before communicating, and seeking to change prescribing behaviors, is of vital importance."

She offered some further advice to pharma. First, get to know the target audience at a granular level and develop empathy with their daily challenges. If possible, create support systems that can help them overcome day-to-day frustrations. Work on creating communications that forge a two-way dialogue and develop partnerships that have common goals. And don't just set it and forget it. Eglington said it's important to collect and monitor feedback and tweak programs as needed.

"There is a genuine want to work more collaboratively but a disconnect in what true joint working looks like," she said. "More conversations need to be had to find a way forward that works for all parties. Ultimately pharma and physicians' objectives are the same … to improve the patient pathway and patient outcomes."

- read the release