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Pfizer begins using ‘digital’ reps

Published on 24/09/13 at 08:46am
Pfizerline image

Pfizer has begun using digital drug representatives to market medicines, leaving the decision as to whether they want to see them in doctors’ hands.

It’s an unusual move that creates more of an indirect form of marketing. The firm’s new service it calls ‘Pfizerline’ has its own website with a blurb saying: “Ask Pfizer............, who can give you promotional product information at a time convenient to you. It’s simple. It’s flexible. It’s convenient. Calls can be arranged to suit your busy practice schedule.”

The service offers new ways for primary care doctors to talk to reps and also offers links to product information about branded medicines available in the UK.

There is in addition the ability to book an online meeting room that Pfizer says provides a “rich multi-media interaction where you can see our trained UK-based digital representative, as well as the product presentation they are discussing with you”.

In a nutshell, it means UK doctors can speak to reps via a Skype-like device about new products from Pfizer. Doctors can book online via a booking form and a ‘digital rep’ will arrange a time to talk on the phone, or video link at www.askpfizer.com.

The process, dubbed ‘digital detailing’, is designed around promotional product discussions and is within the ABPI rules.

The US healthcare giant is advertising these new services on the British Medical Journal website, which is aimed specifically at UK doctors.

Recent studies have suggested that doctors in the UK are having less time to see reps and can be frustrated by face-to-face contact, especially since April when GPs became the new managers of the NHS, with the resulting workload.

Although this takes reps away from the doctor’s office, it could turn out to be a clever strategy if it means healthcare professionals are more willing to talk reps, given that the decision is now in their hands.

This is also not the first time Pfizer has turned to digital for a new message, or indeed used the BMJ to advertise it. In January last year it launched an online campaign to persuade UK doctors to keep prescribing its blockbuster statin Lipitor ahead of its patent expiry in May 2012.

Occupying a prominent advertising banner space on the BMJ website, the ‘Lipitor in focus’ video argued that keeping patients on Lipitor will be good for patients and for NHS budgets.

The three-minute video said that Lipitor has the best outcomes for patients, and would soon become much cheaper, meaning there was little reason to switch.

Ben Adams

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