Pharma deploys reps with helping hands to target stealth prescribers

ZS Managing Principal Pratap Khedkar

As physicians pack up camp and move to larger healthcare systems, restrictive policies bar reps from calling on doctors and face-to-face conversations dwindle. But companies may want to invite other members of the office to the marketing party--and send specialized reps to offer a few favors.

Mid-level healthcare professionals like nurse practitioners and physician assistants often play an integral role in physician prescribing. Their names just don't show up in prescription data that drugmakers use to target sales pitches, ZS Associates Managing Principal Pratap Khedkar told FiercePharmaMarketing.

"Some companies at the forefront are deliberately targeting mid-level practitioners, because other companies are not striking relationships with them and they realize that their influence is higher than the data would tell you," Khedkar said. "The good companies are going beyond the data to figure out the change in dynamic rather than doing what the data says."

The key to targeting mid-level providers is offering a service, Khedkar told FiercePharmaMarketing. As small molecule drugs move off patent and biologics gain ground, reps who can train nurses to perform infusions or provide useful reimbursement information could win over nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Many drugmakers--especially those focused on oncology and vaccines--have already started to send service reps into offices, Khedkar said.

Companies that have expanded their sterile injectable and oncology drug portfolios have the scale to create specialized service reps, and stand to save time and money by zeroing in on a specific need. To tailor their approach, drugmakers might consider sending in reps skilled in nursing or reimbursement for a short amount of time.

"When the company's portfolio becomes big enough, they will move toward these specialized roles," Khedkar said. "It's not training all my reps to do something I only need for a year and a half; it's hiring on a contract basis."