It’s no secret that pharma promotion doesn’t come cheap. Between face-to-face promotional activities, free samples, and educational meetings, pharmaceutical companies spend over $15 billion in marketing to physicians each year. That on top of the $5 billion spend on direct-to-consumer advertising means a hefty investment in generating awareness for their drug. And these numbers do not even account for the money spent when developing new products for treating specific conditions and improving patient lives!
Promoting the drug is only a first step toward product usage and generating sales. The positioning, messaging, audience targeting are critical, but moving from promotion to prescribing to ensuring that the patient actually receives the drug is where pitfalls arise for pharmaceutical companies. All of the sales and marketing spending is for naught without patient “pull-through” – the actual, successful picking up of a prescription from the pharmacy.
So what can pharmaceutical companies do differently in the coming year to better ensure pull-through? For starters, pharma can begin to more actively address the growing Prior Authorization (PA) challenge.
PAs are a requirement put in place by a patient’s health plan to approve a specific medication before it can be dispensed. Of the 20 most advertised drugs in 2015, almost all require PA across health plans. Often times, PAs are a road block to a successful prescription. They are a headache and resource drain for physician practices, and result in lost sales for pharmaceutical companies.
When reimbursement is denied for a prescription, the patient likely will not receive the drug that their physician originally prescribed. In fact, approximately 70 percent of patients encountering a PA do not receive the originally prescribed medication, and upwards of 40 percent of those patients forego treatment altogether.
Many pharma companies believe that it’s just a matter of putting a PA form in the hands of the practice, but fewer than half of these forms ever get submitted. A successful pull through strategy not only provides the PA form to the practice but offers a service that increases the likelihood that the form gets completed and submitted to the plan. Implementing an effective and efficient PA service can often overcome the PA challenge and generate real results for pharmaceutical companies. Here’s one of my favorite examples of the impact that a strong pull-through strategy can have: I was recently in touch with a pharmaceutical representative at a major company. She shared that by providing her physician practices with access to the full-service, user-friendly prior authorization support system (PASS) from PARx Solutions, she moved from being her company’s #141 (out of 150) sales rep to their #6!
In another conversation, I connected with a District Manager in a different company whose district is ranked #1 in sales. When inquiring on how she did it, she attributed her success to being the #1 district in the company for PA submissions through PARx PASS.
In 2017, a pull through strategy will be necessary to meet the PA challenge to ensure medications are ultimately dispensed. Successful pull-through strategies must address the hurdles that health plans have put in place, making the process of managing PAs fast and easy for physicians.