Rx SAMPLING PHONE-IN SERVICE TO HANDLE PRODUCTS OF MULTIPLE FIRMS
Rx SAMPLING PHONE-IN SERVICE TO HANDLE PRODUCTS OF MULTIPLE FIRMS is being developed in the U.S. by a new firm, Sample Control Systems. Under the system, physicians would call the "Physician's Sample Hotline" to review an inventory of offered product samples from different companies, specify the type and number of samples desired, and then receive shipments within two days. Sample Control systems is beginning to describe the program to drug manufacturers. Once it signs up 40 products for the hotline, the firm will send participation information to 150,000 physicians, particularly those in primary care/internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, dermatology and cardiology. Established about a year ago, Sample Control was formed in partnership with the Canadian firm Health Marketing Resources, which has operated a similar hotline for about four years. In Canada, about 25 to 30 drug firms participate -- including Merck Frosst, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Upjohn, and Burroughs Wellcome. In addition, about 90% of Canadian primary care physicians are "active users" of the system. The company has been meeting with FDA in an effort to ensure that the hotline complies with physician sampling provisions of the Prescription Drug Marketing Act. The firm points to the House report on the Dingell drug diversion law stating that programs to supply physicians with drug samples "could include electronic transmission of practitioners requests...as long as the actual signed signature requests from the physicians are promptly transmitted as well." The phone-in system includes a series of physician verification procedures. For example, the firm says it will require written signature when the physician enrolls in the program, a security clearance code and "electronic signature" when the order is placed, and a written signature obtained on ordering. In addition, signed receipts for delivered products will be kept on file. Sample Control characterizes the hotline as a supplement to detailing, and as offering the advantage of eliminating sample wastage while increasing service efficiency to those physicians who are the most interested in specific products. Since the hotline is intended to supply desired samples quickly, sales reps can focus more time on providing product information rather than being "sample pushers," according to the firm. Inventories will be updated every six months, with the drug maker able to specify the maximum quantity of a product and number of shipments for each six-month cycle. Participating drug companies will pay a listing fee plus a flat rate for each product delivered. The program will be supported with advertisements in monthly medical journals that describe the hotline and sample inventory. Sample Control Systems president is James Manion, formerly senior VP and chief financial officer at IMS America. VP-Marketing & Sales is Duke Powell, previously an exec at the information services firms Fisher Stevens/Clark-O'Neill before their acquisition by IMS International.
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