It is happening already. Doctors are hearing about the Sunshine Act and shutting their doors to reps.
The problem? Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to disclose the names of physicians who have been the recipients of lunches, breakfasts, and speaking appointments. Uneasy about their names are posted on company websites, physicians are discontinuing lunch with reps, often the only remaining way to access the physician.
What can sales leaders do to curb the damage? Be proactive. Specifically, provide reps with the following advice:
1. Remind physicians that they are not alone. Representatives should remind physicians that thousands of other doctors are continuing to do lunches and find them to be an acceptable method for receiving product information and updates.
2. Remind physicians that costs are “filtered.” Physicians overestimate the dollar amounts that will be associated with their names. For example, if a representative spends $200 on lunch for an office of 20 people, the physician believes that the entire $200 will be attached to his name. This is inaccurate. The total lunch cost is divided by total number of attendees, meaning only $10 will be associated with the physician's name.
3. Remind physicians that everything is relative. In some cities, local newspapers have published the names of physicians and payments they have received. However, newspapers typically report physicians who receive $50,000 plus for speaking engagements. A cup of coffee, snack, or occasional lunch with a representative is unlikely to warrant attention. Physicians should be reminded of the fact.
Although the act is not scheduled to go into full effect until 2012, some companies are reporting early. Companies who are proactive now can help representatives address the Sunshine Act in an honest and forthright way. In the process, they can keep doors open and relationships intact.