The long-established practice of sample pill distribution from pharma sales rep to physician to patient is changing. New regulations now require more stringent tracking of all distributed prescription medications. To get medications into the hands of patients, pharma companies are turning to cards that do everything from tracking sample shipments to giving consumers discounts at the pharmacy and are serving as a new form of marketing.
Until recently, drug company reps had been handing out samples worth billions of dollars to physicians each year as a way to market new medications. But companies are looking for new ways to get medications to consumers. Part of this change has been prompted by the new health care law which mandates that pharma companies report these distributions to Congress. More companies are starting to use card sampling. The pharma reps either deliver or mail cards to physicians who can then order drug samples. The system allows pharma companies to track where samples are delivered.
Samples continue to be a valuable part of a physician's treatment options. Physicians may start a patient on a drug sample to see how well the medication is tolerated before writing a full subscription.
In addition to matching a medication to a patient’s condition, physicians also make prescription decisions based on:
- Patient financial status 86%
- Patient coverage 76%
- Patient co-pay 68%
This financial angle is where pharma companies are taking another step into the physician-patient relationship. To be sure that a patient fills a subscription, either with or without a sample, pharma companies are giving physicians co-pay or discount cards to help patients with the cost of a prescription. When consumers take these cards to the pharmacy, the discounted medicine can strengthen the loyalty between the patient and the pharma company. According to Nicole Jedlo, in marketing and business development at Jet, a major card system operator, " We've seen an increase of over 200% in the use rate of cards in the past year." This data indicates that cards may play an increasing role in the way pharma companies market new medications.
These new cards may serve to enhance the reputation of the pharma industry. In 2010, only 16% of consumers say their opinion of pharma companies is “somewhat or extremely positive”.[Sources: Jedlo, Nicole. Cards: Pharma’s Answer to Sample Compliance. Jet. Imaginejet.net. January 2011. Web. 18 Jan. 2011; Favole, Jared. Drug Makers Provide View Of Sampling Practices. WSL.com. 5 Jun. 2010. Web. 18 Jan. 2011; Chase, James. Pharma Industry Perceptions. MMM-Online.com. 14 May 2010. Web. 18 Jan. 2011]