Something smart from Merck

I was one of the chorus of critics that was disappointed with Merck’s recent announcement of a modest layoff and manufacturing restructuring. It was clear that wouldn’t be enough to turn things around.

I’m more impressed with their announcement yesterday of shifts in the sales and marketing strategy. Merck will focus less on influencing physicians –following Pfizer in de-emphasizing so-called “mirrored” salesforces which send different reps to talk to the same doctors about the same drugs. That’s not so original, but it’s a good idea. What is more impressive is their stated intention of focusing more on marketing to health plans that make the decisions about whether and to what extent new drugs will be reimbursed.

I’ve always been amazed that “managed care” or “managed markets” is relegated to a corner of the sales and marketing function within pharma companies. Managed care is treated as the exception, when really almost everyone patient in the country has some form of managed care, especially when it comes to prescriptions. Marketing to the payers does deserve to be front and center.

Now we’ll see if Merck can come up with any drugs to pitch and whether the payers will be impressed by being the focus of attention.

December 16, 2005

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