Research sponsored by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals discovered that medical offices that limit drug sales representatives' access to providers may be slow to adopt new prescription practices. This study, published in The Journal of Clinical Hyperten
sion, may have implications about the relationship between physician marketing and the medications that are available to patients.
According to background information on the study, pharmaceutical representatives have accounted for 60 percent of all company sales and marketing expenditures. However, as of 2010, 11 percent of physicians had severe or "no-see" policies that limited representatives' access to their offices. Another 34 percent had some restrictions. Opponents of these policies argue that they may do more harm than good.
In order to understand these restrictions' impact on medication practices, the study authors reviewed the information collected from the AccessMonitor database, a popular resource for pharmaceutical companies. Representatives' access to doctors was categorized as very low, low, medium and high. They related this information to the prescription practices of between more than 58,000 and more than 72,000 physicians.
Specifically, they focused on the innovative diabetes drug, sitagliptin; rosiglitazone, an older diabetes medication that has a black box warning about heart health; and simvastatin/ezetimbe, a combination therapy that had negative results in a clinical trial.
Results showed that doctors who had very low access policies were 1.4 times and 4.6 times slower in adopting t
he innovative drug when compared to those with low and medium access, respectively. Furthermore, physicians with very low access policies were 4 times slower in reducing their prescriptions of rosiglitazone, compared to providers with low access. Similar results were seen with the combination therapy.
"Policies that promote physician ignorance of new medical information resulting from access limits runs counter to protecting patient health," the authors wrote.
Other results showed that primary care physicians relied more heavily on sales representatives for medication information, compared to specialists.