What drives docs to pen your prescription?

Smitha Sarma Ranganathan
PM web
Smitha Sarma Ranganathan

New York: Consider this scenario: There are over 4800 brands of medications available only for managing high blood pressure in India! Arguably, doctors face tremendous choice overload while writing a drug prescription.

So it’s not surprising that the pharma industry works overtime to register a top of mind recall for brands belonging to their stables. Pharmaceutical industry has been time and again criticized for offering financial incentives to lure medical professions into prescribing for them.

Stringent guidelines issued by Medical Council of India (MCI) continue to discourage pharmaceutical marketing initiatives that directly offer financial benefits to healthcare professionals. Amidst such a cluttered market, what determines physician’s final choice of a drug is still mostly unknown.

A recent study involving over 600 physicians conducted over a three-year period reveals that doctors are mostly influenced by factors such as patient context, pharmacological profile of the drug, influence of professional peers’ opinion, besides ongoing familiarity with medical representatives.

Conceptualised as the ‘Physician Prescription Prism’, this decision model offers a periscopic view on factors that Influence doctors ‘choice of a brand while writing a drug prescription. The research study also goes on to recommend means to ‘ethically enable’ brand choice for drugs by taking a closer look at the cognitive decision making process of doctors.

The study is the research endeavour of Dr Smitha Sarma Ranganathan, a Bengaluru-based brand communications professional who skipped an active career in advertising to pursue her curiosity on doctors’ drug choice dilemma.

Dr Ranganathan avers, “I have known so many doctors who value professional integrity beyond any financial incentive; similarly, there are so many ethical pharmaceutical brand custodians, yet the story of ‘pharma physician nexus’ has been doing the rounds for decades now. When there is little understanding, all one does is to create conspiracy theories.” She enrolled for a Doctoral program with Jain University with the sole purpose of unearthing this mystery relating to physician choice behaviour.
Dr Ranganathan believes her research journey has been a gratifying one that has helped gain insights that could significantly influence pharmaceutical promotional practices.

According to Dr.Vivekanand, a practising clinician with a leading hospital, professionals with all kind of motives find a place in every industry; however the repercussions of misplaced motive is heightened in practice of medicine. “So, a research study contextualised in India attempting to provide unbiased findings about Indian physicians is heartening.”

Industry veterans too have welcomed the practical insights that emanate from the research. Suresh Babu – Head of Strategic Initiatives at Sanofi points out, “Mantra for a marketer today is about delivering more with less. I would personally encourage the young marketers to evaluate the four Managerial implications proposed by Smitha in her research work.

Dr Smitha Sarma Ranganathan has over 16 years of experience as a key account influencer and brand communication specialist with keen interest in focused healthcare marketing communications. She pursued her research as a scholar with Jain University and teaches Marketing electives at ICFAI Business School.

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