More pharma reps toting iPads, but docs don't always like it

By Neil Versel

iPad medicalNot only are physicians picking up iPads in astounding numbers, so are pharmaceutical sales representatives. However, the presence of an iPad doesn't always make for a better detailing session.

Among the 87 percent of U.S. physicians who interact with pharma companies online, 38 percent report being visited by a pharma or biotech sales rep with an iPad or other tablet-style device in the 12 months ended in June, Manhattan Research reports. However, only a third who have encountered tablet-toting sales reps believe that the experience is better than with a laptop or printed material.

The reason? Some drug companies seem to have developed iPad apps in a hurry to take advantage of the rapid uptake among doctors.

"iPads are all the rage for pharma at the moment, which makes sense given the potential of these devices to support intelligent, nimble sales conversations," Manhattan Research VP Monique Levy says. "Unfortunately, some of the detailing programs that are being rushed out the door are sub-par—really really no better than something you’d see on tablet PCs six years ago. Doctors won't waste their time with these."

The findings are based on the New York research firm's survey of 1,755 U.S. doctors that fall into the category of "ePharma" physician. Manhattan Research defines an ePharma physician as one who sees at least 20 patients per week, writes a minimum of 20 prescriptions weekly and either search for pharma information online or participate in electronic detailing programs.

According to Manhattan Research, general surgeons, infectious disease or HIV specialists, anesthesiologists and OB/GYNs are most likely to welcome pharma reps giving their presentations on tablets. Dermatologists and rheumatologists tend to find tablets less useful.

The research company says that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck and Abbott are leading their counterparts in terms of sending out sales reps with iPads. There is no word on whether their programs are effective, though.

Manhattan Research is hosting a free webinar to discuss the study, Thursday at 11 a.m. EDT. Register here.