The outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken an extensive toll on drug promotion activities of pharmaceutical companies, industry data showed.
Drug sales representatives’ on-site promotions fell, while digital marketing activities such as online meetings with doctors rose significantly, the data showed.
IQVIA Korea, on Monday, released an analysis of how COVID-19 affected pharmaceutical promotion activities. The report compared traditional on-site promotions such as face-to-face detailing and academic seminars with digital promotions such as e-mails and remote detailing, before and after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Pharmaceutical detailing refers to a one-on-one marketing technique by drug companies to inform a physician about medicine to promote the prescription of the drug.
The results showed that overall promotion activities slid 17 percent in February from the previous month, as the outbreaks started in earnest in February in Korea. Not only detailing, which accounts for the largest share of drug promotions, but conferences and seminars plunged by 68 percent during the same period.
In February, traditional drug promotions declined 18 percent, while digital detailing shot up 84.5 percent. Digital meeting also rose 12.2 percent, and e-mailing, 64 percent, the analysis showed.
Jeon Seung, executive director of Commercial Sales of IQVIA Korea, who led the analysis, said among digital detailing, automatic detailing grew 276 percent, and remote detailing, 52 percent.
“In an unprecedented outbreak of unexpected COVID-19, using already-prepared materials would have been more effective,” Jeon said.
“In contrast, to perform remote detailing, it would have been relatively difficult to build a platform and prepare people with professional detailing skills."
IQVIA data also showed that Korean physicians had a lower preference for digital channels, compared to their global peers.
According to the pharmaceutical market researcher’s survey on 30,000 doctors in over 30 countries in 2019, Korean doctors had 21 percent preference for digital channels, lower than 25 percent on average among doctors worldwide.
In Korea, pharmaceutical salespersons have better physical access to doctors, compared to those in the U.S. or Europe, and Korean doctors prefer traditional channels, which made drugmakers slower to use digital channels, Jeon said.
However, the changing environment and past experiences will increase communication between drug companies and physicians through digital channels, he noted.
“As drugmakers experienced a severe restriction in accessing doctors due to the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19, they will reconsider channel strategies fundamentally,” he added.
Jeon said pharmaceutical companies would need to check overall multichannel marketing capabilities and prepare the optimal channel-mixing strategies and manuals to execute plans in the event of an unexpected situation quickly. Companies should also build a remote detailing platform, train detailers, and discover outsourcing partners in advance, he pointed out.
“From a doctor’s point of view, digital channel experiences provided by each drug company amid the spread of COVID-19 will change their behaviors and channel preferences when communicating with the companies,” Jeon said.
As doctors will obtain desired information at their desired time, they will experience the advantages of digital channels such as easier management of outside visitors and minimizing business interruptions, he added.
“They will have an opportunity to think again about their high preference for face-to-face meetings with pharmaceutical representatives,” Jeon said.