They write 92% of their prescriptions without consulting a physician and are often the first provider a patient sees, and yet nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and other non-physician prescribers (NPPs) are still somehow overlooked by pharma as an opportunity to drive sales. A GSW Worldwide report titled The non-physician prescriber will see you now points out that NPP roles are becoming increasingly important in the context of a shifting market dynamic initiated largely by systemic health care reform. The report also points to how drugmakers can better engage this burgeoning group of prescribers if they plan to effectively market medicines all the way to the patient.
Conducted across 46 states and with a group of 400 respondents, the sample was representative of just how many nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives there are in the US. The demand for NPPs is leading to higher pay and an increased respect within the payer community. Aetna now considers nurse practitioners, for example, to be primary care providers and reimburses them for their services thusly.
When considering what influenced their behavior as prescribers the most, the survey found that NPPs tend to consider efficacy, their experiences with the drug, and price, in that order. As 82% of the respondents indicated they had no restrictions when dealing with sales representatives (17% had certain restrictions, and 11% said they were completely restricted), and that most respondents were open to support from them, why have sales reps and pharma by and large neglected to address this demographic?
Brenda Rizzo, author of the report and an advanced practice nurse herself, says sales reps make calls “based upon prescribing behaviors, and on that basis alone, NPPs are pretty much invisible.” Misconceptions about NPPs abound, according to the report, including that they prescribe based on a protocol set by their physician practice partners, that if they have the ability to prescribe, they rarely do, or that they are simply refilling prescriptions that have already been decided on by a physician. Pharma “doesn’t realize that this is an audience that makes independent prescribing decisions, and that having the right information to make those decisions is incumbent on pharma companies; to provide it to non-physician prescribers is equally important as it is to provide that information to physicians,” emphasizes Rizzo.
So what kind of information do non-physician prescribers want? As a group shown to be active attendees of national conferences and maintaining exchange of advice among colleagues and fellow professionals, first and foremost the information should be sharable and accurate to provide trustworthy resources that can further facilitate dialogue and be spread easily. Secondly, NPPs listed printed education materials from pharmaceutical companies as one of their top-rated tools when looking to improve patient compliance. More specifically, 61.3% of respondents, when asked about what kind of support they’d expect from pharma companies, said “Education about the pharmaceutical drug or medical device directed to the NPP for the patient,” 54.5% responded “Disease state information to educate the patient.” and 51.5% said “Assessment tools to help identify problems that can be addressed.”
NPPs, as this study shows, not only want to engage, but expect valuable engagement tools from pharma to help make their jobs easier. With primary care taking on a new definition that includes long-term, patient-focused care, the physician’s ability to orchestrate outcomes is increasingly being diluted and in need of help from nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and other NPPs. As such, pharma needs to keep a keen eye on these providers: payers, private practices, and health care facilities have already gotten the memo.