Pharma Marketing 101: Two Things Pharma Needs From You


“Pharma-marketing” is a taboo term for many physicians. Many of our colleagues view it as a discipline characterized by a plethora of unethical actions. You can view pharma-marketing as you like, however the industry in general has certainly contributed to some of the major milestones of modern medicine. While certain physicians have taken advantage of these unethical matters, many of our peers have skillfully used their liaisons to the pharmaceutical industry for the advancement of their careers in an entirely ethical way, and you can do the same. However, first you need to know what pharma needs from YOU:

Pharma Need #1: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

As a physician, you are making decisions on a daily basis. You decide which drugs to prescribe, which devices to implant and what tests to run. If you are like most doctors, your drug treatment decisions probably have the largest influence on industry revenues. Pharma has sophisticated tools to precisely track your prescription patterns. For the sake of internal communication and priority setting, they classify you into an A/B/C-type category system (or similar groupings). These categories are essentially a function of your prescription volumes.

If you are in the A category, they will do their best to keep you there, whereas if you are a B, they might try to make you an A, and so on and so forth. My advice here is this: know your value to pharma, but do not prescribe a drug just for the sake of becoming an A-type-doc!

Pharma Need #2: Influence

The second thing pharma needs from you is your influence over your peers, organizations (e.g. hospitals) and interest groups (e.g. doctors’ organizations). These, in turn, will either prescribe therapy to patients or exert influence over their stakeholders:

Influence is a function of two things: network size and your authority. Doctors with a lot of influence are usually referred to as key opinion leaders, or KOL. Traditionally, these individuals have been professors from academic institutions. However, increasingly, pharma is also looking at the medical (micro) blogging sphere for KOL2.0 type individuals. KOL identification is an ongoing process within the industry. Some of the key KOL attributes pharma is looking for are: the quality of your talks, your charisma, the number of publications, or your position within your interest groups. However, as mentioned above, other factors, like the number of Twitter followers or the maintenance of a blog, are gaining more and more importance. Once identified as a KOL, you will be invited to speak at meetings, participate in large-scale clinical trials or participate in advisory boards.

So, to sum up, pharma can provide you with a platform to increase your network, enhance your visibility and strengthen your personal brand. As a physician, you are THE critical component to pharma’s marketing and sales outlets. Know your value and use your influence wisely. It entirely depends on you if you are the ball or the player in the pharma marketing game.

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Franz is an internist with a specialization in cardiology. He co-founded the e-learning company 123sonography and MedCrunch. Franz is Associate Professor for internal medicine at the Medical University of Vienna. In 2001 he did his MPH at Johns Hopkins University as a Fulbright scholar. Follow Franz at @franzwiesbauer.


  1. […] reps and the list goes on forever.One thing that is absurdedly not being taught in med school is how to treat pharmaceutical companies. The pharma industry is by far the biggest “sparring partner” of the modern physician, […]

  2. This is really helpful.
    I am an influencer – as many colleagues and pharma reps have commented, and I guess that is why I am on my way to becoming a KOL 🙂 for some pharma (read vaccine) companies


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