Ever get “free samples” from doctors? Yeah. I dealt precisely with this stuff at Schering-Plough. Here’s how it worked:
Sales reps visit doctors and nurse practitioners. They tout the virtues of new Drug Z and drop off a bunch of free samples. They give coupons and other things that the doc/nurse can use.
Doc then prescribes new drug or at least gives out the samples to patients.
Converting the doctors is paramount to the sales reps.
There’s limits federally mandated already. There was a limit of $100 in gift per year, Used to be no limit. They’d take the doctors and their whole families out to baseball games, dinners, golfing, etc. A stop was put to the extreme practices but not a whole lot of years ago.
When I was around, the $100 limit was in place. What I did is create a complicated tracking/reporting system gathering all sorts of data, from sample drops, to doctor and customer sentiments (doing sentiment analysis in Excel in the late 90s/early 00s without guidelines was interesting. Didn’t think of it as AI work but I guess it was looking back)…. among other things. Each sales rep (there were about four thousand in the USA) got a customized interactive set of worksheets with data specific to their little area, which might be one part of a town or whatever and made these every week and I not only put it together but automated it. The IT people hated me. They tried to get rid of me with an expensive data-cube big-data thingie but they failed.
When I left in ’02 I trained 3 people and they used my stuff until at least 2010, changing what I did to reflect new products they were pushing.
Anyway, the sales reps were mostly an irritation to the doctors and nurse practitioners (and physician’s assistants – forgot about them)… but they’d take the samples and coupons and like anybody else, if you can save money, you save money.
The drugs are mostly equivalent coming from the pharmaceuticals with only slight variations most of the time. [releasing a left-handed molecule version instead of a right-hand molecule means 7 more years of patented product for example].
My participation is so far back, the products were Zyrtec and Allegra as competition and I was giving reps the power to target specific doctors and insurance plans so they could convert them to Claritin and Claritin D.
So, I worked for the devil and helped them get profit which they did.
Anyway, it’s a strange business, pharmaceuticals. Great place to work for. [not so much the genetics labs but pharma is good job stuff] but you give up part of your soul. Then again, same is true for a lot of businesses.
There was something exciting though about having to put together EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR nurse and physician’s assistant with EVERY single health plan in the USA and having data on EVERY single prescription of every drug in that class available to work with. It didn’t all come in one place either. It was a mess. Huge mess of data from a huge mess of sources. Some aligned by zip code, some aligned by sales rep codes, some aligned by insurance company or aligned by “town name/state” or by Doctor name… or by some other strange thing… it was interesting but I did it. I still like dealing with massive amounts of messy data. Neat and tidy data is boring.