Survey Reveals How Pharma Reps Add Value


As the need for education about new treatments in oncology grows, healthcare executives should understand what sources of information doctors are relying on.

Health professionals

Oncologists say pharmaceutical sales representatives play a key role in helping them learn about new drugs, and are providing valuable staff education and information on patient access and assistance programs, according to new research from Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions, an integrated healthcare services and products company.

These findings were released earlier this month in Oncology Insights, a research-based report series analyzing the views of more than 170 U.S. oncologists. The issue focuses on oncologists’ interactions with pharmaceutical companies and their views about real-world evidence (RWE).

More than two-thirds (71%) of participating oncologists said pharmaceutical sales representatives play an important role in helping them learn about new drugs––and it ranked as one of the most valued sources of information (44%), behind key opinion leaders (60%) and online clinical support platforms (50%).

“Specialty therapeutic areas that once only had one or two possible treatments may today have a dozen or more, and new therapies continue to become more specialized, creating an environment where healthcare providers need more data and a deeper understanding of all treatment options to select the best therapy for each patient,” says Eli Phillips Jr., PharmD, JD, Vice President of Insights and Engagement, Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. “As the need for education about new treatments grows, it is important for healthcare executives to understand what sources of information healthcare providers are relying upon, and what additional support may be needed.”

Related: Pharmacists Contribute to Increased Patient Satisfaction

The findings in Oncology Insights are based on web-based surveys conducted in advance of three Cardinal Health market research summits, which took this past fall. The survey included participation from oncologists representing a diverse mix of community and hospital-based practices.

The survey found that, despite increased use of RWE in regulatory filings for new therapies, there is still a lag in understanding and adoption of RWE among most oncologists. A majority of the respondents said they use RWE only to treat patients who are under-represented in clinical trials, and less than half correctly identified several sources of RWE data.

Other key findings include:

• Nearly half of oncologists allow pharmaceutical sales representatives access to their practices, though on a limited basis;

• Oncologists expressed interest in receiving more RWE from pharmaceutical companies, particularly patient outcomes studies and comparative effectiveness studies;

• Almost three-quarters of respondents agree that digital channels play an important role in helping them learn about new therapies but most are not using social media in their professional lives.

“As the pace of innovation in oncology drugs continues to accelerate, productive relationships between oncologists and the pharmaceutical industry have never been more important,” says Joe DePinto, president of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. “Our survey indicates that, in spite of perceptions, oncologists rely upon the information they receive from drug developers. Also, pharma has an opportunity to strengthen the value they deliver to oncologists by providing more real-world evidence studies and patient assistance information.”

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