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How COVID-19 Changed Medical and Pharma Sales

Medical sales representatives took a massive hit with the rise of the COVID-19. Face-to-face interactions became almost impossible because of the dangers of spreading the virus. In contrast, the medical field as a whole became more important during this pandemic, as medical professionals were in high demand.

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But how exactly did the pandemic affect medical and pharma sales? We did the research to provide you with all the facts you need to understand what changed in this industry due to COVID-19.


How The Pandemic Affected Medical Sales


Health care providers and professionals were primarily focused on the virus during the past two years. Even though pharmaceutical companies are booming because they are developing vaccines, the medical sales industry didn’t necessarily follow suit.


Due to a lack of time and increased alternatives, medical professionals often closed their doors on medical representatives, and the bulk of a medical sales representative’s work became digital.


However, the effect on the industry overall wasn’t as grim. In fact, after a slight dip in sales in 2020, businesses quickly picked up to their numbers pre-pandemic. The areas that out-performed the rest of the industry were, surprisingly, diagnostic and imaging companies.


“We had different kinds of companies that were able to benefit on some level from COVID and shutdowns,” SVB Leerink senior research analyst Richard Newitter said in an interview with Medical Design & Outsourcing. “Companies that do diagnostic tests saw sales increase throughout COVID. We also had other companies that had products that were well-suited for the at-home type of treatment or things that require fewer in-person visits that also unironically saw a tailwind throughout COVID.”


“A lot of large-cap medical device companies did see revenue decreases in 2020,” Truist Securities managing director Kaila Krum said in the same report. “It was pretty diverse across our sector. We did see revenue decline in our midsize and small-size companies, too. Despite that, about two-thirds of our stocks within the medtech universe outperformed in 2020. I think we learned [the medtech industry] isn’t bulletproof, but the stocks held up pretty well, albeit with a little bit of volatility throughout the year. We learned that procedure volumes can swing to pretty big degrees, and we learned that procedures that aren’t traditionally considered elective procedures were still getting pushed out.”


Diagnostic and imaging devices were widely used since they were used to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 patients.


Online Interaction


Although there are some downsides, some companies saw the advantage of online presence and capitalized on it. The emergence of online presentations and video meetings for drug promotions helped companies cut costs, as they have no longer had to pay for flights and set up physical meetings.


In addition to that, video presentations can be recorded or streamed live and can reach a far larger audience. This is a trend that will likely continue in the future, and the medical industry is one of many that evolved and capitalized on the changes brought on by the pandemic.


Physical Presence Of Medical Reps


Though some prefer the online-only method prevalent during the pandemic, others prefer to interact with their sales representatives face-to-face. They noticed how important these individuals were to the field and how helpful they were in presenting new drugs or products.


Some say that having the physical presence of med reps is still essential for their field, and digitizing their job can make things difficult for them.


“I think there’ll be a shift – an increased focus on the value of the engagement to the physician,” Veeva Europe vice president for commercial strategy Jan van den Burg said. “But, as we are all experiencing now in our personal lives, doing everything through digital is absolutely not the way forward. It’s not how human beings work. I think we’re all desperate to get out and mix and mingle with our friends and family, and the same applies to the interactions between pharma and physicians.”


However, some believe that as industry-wide buying patterns evolve, so does selling. There’s a good chance that many companies will choose to keep their sales representatives on a primarily-digital platform.

Even so, others will still believe that the touch of humans is needed, especially in medical sales. It all comes down to each company’s preference.


The Future Of Medical Sales


Many in the industry still value the role of medical sales representatives, even in this digital age. This field would be challenging to do online and is often easier done face-to-face. It’s important to consider what added value the sales rep provides, as they do a lot more than parade product information


Once the pandemic is entirely over, doctors may still want to see medical representatives in their offices, but that doesn’t mean that everything will go back to how it was before the pandemic. Experts say that it would be nice to see the combination of expertise of an experienced med rep with the brains of technology to create a better outcome.


“If we mean a rep who understands the science, who is interested in patients, who are capable of having a meaningful discussion with the HCP on a patient case, and not trying to push a marketing message but instead finding the right treatment for the right patient and giving advice on how to use the product properly – then yes, I would like that to come back,” Grünenthal group senior vice president Florent Edouard stated. “And I think it is going to come back because it’s still needed.”

“But what will not come back is the army of reps running around, calling doctors, and just presenting marketing messages. I think these types of activities need to stop. They are pointless.”

This could be the future of medical and pharmaceutical sales, and as such, could something companies need to focus on post-pandemic.