Do doctors have an emotional connection to certain medicines that can raise their level of trust? A new survey claims that this is, indeed, the case, at least when it comes to some of more than two dozen drugs found in four therapeutic categories - anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, erectile dysfunction and non-insulin diabetes treatments.
Harris Interactive examined five attributes to gauge trust: three concerned the specific meds - familiarity, function and connection - and the other two pertained to what the drugmakers themselves and their sales reps can offer in the way of accountability and responsiveness, among other things. The polltaker maintains these components are "highly predictive of prescribing intent."
What did they find? Drug functionality was cited as most important by 29 percent of the physicians, followed by connection, which was named by 27 percent of the docs. Familiarity with a drug was mentioned by 20 percent. Sales reps were listed by 13 percent of those queried, and individual drugmakers trailed at 10 percent. Harris, by the way, questioned 358 primary care physicians, 192 psychiatrists, 101 urologists and 108 endocrinologists.
How was the notion of an emotional connection defined? This way: if doctors identify with a drug, have a positive feeling about a drug, if the drug inspires confidence and if a drug brings value to their medical practice. In other words, there are conscious and subconscious attributes that factor into physician decisionmaking, Joe Vorrasi, senior vp of healthcare research at Harris Interactive, tells us. He adds that there was no statistically significant difference between emotional connection and functionality, which was defined to include drug benefits and outcomes.
"We tend to think of doctors as completely driven by fact-based approaches, where a formulaic mapping of symptoms, history and treatment options determines what they prescribe," he says in a statement. "While that is generally true, physicians also are influenced by the softer, more emotional elements of the treatments they prescribe. This unconscious effect is actually very similar to the emotional relationship we see among consumers as they make important purchase decisions. The bottom line is that emotional connection with brands matters in the pharmaceutical realm as well."
So which drugs do docs trust when they pull out the prescription pad? Among antidepressants, Lexapro, which is sold by Forest Laboratories, ranked highest with a score of 74 out of a possible 100. Among diabetes meds, the Glucophage treatment sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb notched a 77. The Abilify antipsychotic, which is also sold by Bristol-Myers, garnered a 74 ranking. And among impotence pills, Pfizer's Viagra and Eli Lilly's Cialis tied at 82 (see this).
A score of 75 or higher was considered excellent, by the way, and anything under 65 was considered below average. On that basis, none of the four therapeutic categories was considered below average, although antipsychotics were on the cusp, since the group was given a ranking of 65. All together, the physicians were asked about 26 drugs across the four therapeutic categories, but not all drugs were disclosed in the results.