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Big pharma needs smaller plans. PharmaFocus November 2007

UK pharma companies will could well miss the opportunity to work with GPs on Practice-based commissioning if they persist with current globally-led, top down strategies, an industry analyst has warned.


Jason Bryant, of intelligence specialists Binley’s says many of the UK’s pharma companies operate on a tightly controlled global marketing plan, which simply doesn’t match up with the changing face of the local NHS.


Practice-based commissioning is one of a number of reforms driving change in the health service, with frontline GPs adapting services to the specific needs of patients in their area.


Bryant, director of the Pharmaceutical Business Unit at Binley’s says the most responsive and flexible companies will be able to engage with the change.


He said: ‘It’s time for pharma to break out of its traditional sales model, but it is difficult while pharma remains very much a business led by global decisions. To meet PBC, Pharma need to drive a business plan from the bottom up.’


Practice Based Commissioning puts the NHS budget in the hands of GPs in primary care, on the principle they have fuller knowledge of local patient needs and can better control spending while improving community services.


This means PBC is incompatible with a  ‘one size fits all’ sales approach from pharma companies. Global business plans must be translated into local commissioning agendas, but right now the numbers don’t compute.


Bryant said: ‘A typical global plan based on brand is distilled down into regions, then countries, then sales territories. The average company has between 48 to 65 primary care reps per team, so at best this number of interpretations of the global plan can be made locally.’


However, NHS customers could have around 1000 different agendas for local service delivery, as there are approximately 1000 commissioning clusters.


‘This could represent 1000 different threats and opportunities for pharma.’


Fast-moving flexible companies have the potential meet all the needs of a local commissioning cluster, while gratifying GPs who dislike meeting with large numbers of reps.


Mr Bryant forecasts that those sitting back in the industry may lose business:


‘The early adopters could lock out the masses, particularly in bigger markets.’


He advised companies to consider moving to a territory profit and loss model, and cited Takeda as fast-movers in the new type of strategy.


“Takeda has done it in its entirety, and are mooted to be at record levels of profitability. Cynics say this is because they drove the bottom line by losing the sales reps, but their new model allows a local regional account director to construct a local NHS business plan. And provided they meet their target profit, it doesn’t matter to directors how this is achieved.”


Mr Bryant also stressed the importance of the new Map of Medicine from the Department of Health - a high quality clinical knowledge source to speed the delivery of evidence based best practice across healthcare organisations.


The central information bank is designed to hold examples of local care pathways for healthcare professionals, and will prove a vital tool for pharma companies promoting use their own products within those pathways.


He said ‘This is a super care pathway that will supersede local care pathways. Pharma should a) be well aware of it, and b) see that anything they implement locally is in line with it. If companies don’t take it on board, what they do could be soon obsolete.’


‘Ignore it at your peril.’


Drivers behind the Map of Medicine want to see it fully rolled out by the end of 2008.

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