Why Samples Make Sense

Free samples, if packaged appropriately, can win over physicians.







Doug Stewart, member, Tube Council of North America, and vice president, sales and marketing, Montebello Packaging


How can pharmaceutical companies build sales when dermatologists hand out sample tubes of a new topical drug and tell patients to "try it free and see how it helps"?

Some of us have had the frustrating experience of seeing a product go through the new drug application process and then be greeted with skepticism by the prescribing dermatologist or other physician. The doctor needs to see the drug proved effective with the patient community. In other words, dermatologists are hesitant to prescribe a product until they've seen its effectiveness. Samples and their packaging play an important role in physician acceptance of the product.

The notions that dermatological sampling detracts from prescription sales or influences physicians to write prescriptions that will not benefit patients are false and have been disproved time and again. Actually, the reverse is the case. A new dermatology product can differentiate itself and gain acceptance from dermatologists through education and sampling support.

While pharmaceutical marketers have different views about what makes for effective communication to the 7000 office-based dermatologists in the United States, there is little question that sampling is necessary and affects the number of prescriptions written. In addition, how the samples are packaged influences patient use and compliance.

Recently, I visited a well-known dermatologist to find out what she liked and disliked about samples she receives. Interestingly, she prefers topical product samples in containers that patients can reclose after each use. She emphatically favors samples in tubes over those in unit-dose sachets, saying that the tube sample serves her patients better.

We need to carefully plan and implement marketing programs for launches of new topical products or reintroductions of mature drugs where new indications are approved or line extensions considered. Distribution of effectively packaged samples is an important component of a successful marketing campaign. Today's pharmaceutical executives are constantly required to think outside the box. The approach and ratio may change, but the sample and its packaging are often what's key to the prescription.

For information on the Tube Council of North America or its member companies, call 212/477-9007. Doug Stewart can be reached at Montebello Packaging, 800/548-TUBE.

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