New research has just been published which reveals that among US primary care physicians, Novartis earns the highest sales rep relationship scores, followed by Pfizer, Merck & Co, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis.

The study, carried out by market research firm TNS Healthcare and based on the responses of 1,500 primary care physicians, notes that Novartis also takes the top spot in Europe, “demonstrating a consistent ability to build strong physician relationships”. Pfizer also shows pretty good overall rep relationship scores, but it has greater variability in Europe, while Merck’s European performance lags behind its US results.

All 15 companies evaluated in the TNS survey score relatively highly on rep-related attributes, including personal and professional conduct, knowledge and expertise and sales visit quality and value. However the study claims that it is their performance “across the full range of other service experiences that set the winners apart”.

For example, Novartis earns the highest marks from doctors on virtually every sales and service activity, including patient and physician education, practice and staff support, brand experience and corporate reputation. However for both Novartis and Pfizer, internet services are relative "weak spots" but a strong area for Merck.

Andrew Brana, TNS global consultant for sales force optimisation, said that a “key takeaway for pharmaceutical companies is that, to build the strongest physician relationships, they must be able to connect with doctors through a host of activities beyond just traditional message delivery”. To stand out from competitors, “they must bring a range of value-add brand services into the detail," he added.

However Mr Brana also noted that in all the countries surveyed, including the USA and the five major European markets, “physician education is very highly valued” but “no company is doing particularly well in this area". As a result, education “represents a powerful chance for companies to differentiate themselves and strengthen their physician relationships”, he concluded.