French-based Study Finds Pharma Promotions Influence Branded vs. Generic Sales

French-based Study Finds Pharma Promotions Influence Branded vs. Generic Sales

Sales matter—at least in France. As it turns out if pharmaceutical companies want doctors to prescribe more branded treatments and less generic ones, then they should invest in teams that educate and communicate the value proposition and differentiators of their particular products, reports a recent study led by University Hospital of Rennes (CHU) in France and the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health.

The Study

The study team utilized two databases including 1) Transparence Sante and 2) the National Health Data System (SNDE). The Transparence Sante is an accessible portal where conflict of interest data for healthcare is reported—e.g. equipment, meals, hotels and entertainment, etc. offered by industry to physicians—the minimum threshold 10 Euros. The National Health Data System (SNDE) is a data base used to record consultations, medical procedures, medical prescriptions and reimbursed admissions all while preserving anonymity. The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Not Causal Relationship but Influence

Although the study researchers, conducted by the University Hospital of Rennes (CHU) and the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health, point out that the results don’t reveal a causal relationship but generally “reinforce the hypothesis that the pharmaceutical industry can influence the prescriptions of general practitioners and give a view of the extent of this influence.”

Or put another way: those that don’t “receive any benefit from the pharmaceutical industry, on average, are associated with better indicators established by Medicare on the effectiveness of their prescriptions and lower costs in general.”

The researchers noted, “This influence, sometimes subconscious among physicians, can lead to a less than ideal treatment choice, at the expense of patient health and the cost to the community.

Discussion of Results

The study revealed that those physicians that don’t receive any benefit from industry are associated with cheaper prescriptions, more generic medicines, fewer prescriptions for vasodilators and long-term benzodiazepines, fewer prescriptions of Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) compared to the cheaper alternatives which are effective. There is apparently no significant difference in prescribing aspirin, generic antidepressants, generic proton pump inhibitors and antacids.

More Sales Money = Higher Mean Cost Per Prescription

As industry spends more targeted funds on physicians the results are, according to this study, real. For the doctors receiving more benefits, analysts can detect high total costs per prescription and interestingly, more shortages of generic alternatives for antibiotics, antihypertensives and statins.

23% of Turnover

The researchers concluded that industry (biopharma companies) spend 23% of revenues on drug promotions—more than research). They report that 90% of general practitioners “have received at least one gift since 2013.”

Lead Research/Investigator

Bruno Goupil, general practitioner, University of Rennes