Physician Insights – Q&A with Dr. Rodney Smith and Sermo’s CEO Peter Kirk

Physicians are some of the busiest professionals around, working an average of 51 hours per week. In addition to 1-1 patient care, HCPs have a slew of other responsibilities to manage from ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, collaborating with other clinicians to promote continuity of care and performing daily administrative tasks (to name JUST a few).

With approximately 65% of Americans and more than half of individuals worldwide regularly taking at least one prescription medication, doctors spend a considerable amount of time learning about new treatments and researching specifics about existing ones. Fortunately, physicians around the world have free access to over 1 million peer drug ratings on 70,000+ medications through Sermo’s Drug Ratings online database that was launched about four years ago. Offering unbiased, first-hand evaluations of treatments, Drug Ratings provide physicians with much-needed insights into the real-world experience of a treatment in patient care, and enables them to dive into specific drug attributes to find out what’s right for their patient.

Through its Drug Rating database and physician social platform, Sermo engages with more than 800,000 physicians across 150 countries. The company’s CEO Peter Kirk and Dr. Rodney Smith, a North Carolina-based urologist, recently discussed the most challenging aspects of evaluating new drugs that come to market, how physician ratings have helped support patient care, and more.

Peter Kirk: In your experience, what is the hardest part of assessing recently approved prescription drugs?

Rodney Smith: The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s (CDER) averages about 37 novel drug approvals per year. The biggest challenge in evaluating them is weeding through each new product’s marketing and promotional information to truly gauge its value and benefits.

Peter Kirk: We continually optimize how we prompt the right specialists to rate the right treatments based on their clinical experience. Have you personally encountered any physician comments that have in some way altered how or what you prescribe?

Rodney Smith: Physician comments about side effects guide me as I explain to my patients potential implications of new therapeutics. Often information about an important but rare side effect can be difficult to find in a package insert, but it becomes more memorable when a physician highlights it in his or her experience.

Peter Kirk: Sermo’s Drug Ratings platform includes 6 rating categories – Efficacy, Safety, Tolerability, Accessibility, Adherence - and the newest, Preference. Which of these do you find particularly informative?

Rodney Smith: Efficacy and safety are my most valued takeaway messages. They’re what really differentiates newer products in urology, which is my specialty.

Peter Kirk: In a global poll of physicians we recently conducted, we found that 93% of doctors believe drug ratings can lead to better health outcomes by enhancing their understanding of how a drug works in the real world. 65% report using our Drug Ratings resource in their practice. What’s one way you’ve leveraged this tool in your practice?

Rodney Smith: Drug Ratings from Sermo offer “real world” assessments from providers with first-hand knowledge of the rated treatments. I have utilized these ratings to build my confidence when prescribing a new drug. I’ve also found it useful when deliberating between a few potential therapies. It makes sense to get a third opinion.

Peter Kirk: That’s one of the reasons we continually update our database as new drugs are approved and enter the market.  We want to offer an honest, organic look at physician perspectives of a drug and assist doctors like you in pinpointing areas of improvement based on physician feedback.

Rodney Smith: Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your ability to achieve this?

Peter Kirk: Despite all the negative impacts of the pandemic, we’re proud to say we’ve been able to support physicians around the world even more so during this time by providing a place to connect with their peers along with trusted industry information and resources.

As more treatments come onto market, especially for niche disease areas, doctors will increasingly rely on their peers and colleagues to learn about new drugs and determine what’s right for their patients. Being able to learn from their peers’ experience through Drug Ratings provides valuable insights into the specific drug’s potential and impacts that might otherwise be overlooked in a virtual setting.