Most frequently asked question in the past when notifying marketing authorization transfer was, “Are you from an affiliate of the original Marketing Authorization (MA) holder?”
There was a trend where affiliates handle long-listed products of their parent company. That was the reason why this question usually came up. I used to respond by saying, “We are a different company from the original MA holder. We may succeed long-listed products also from other companies in the future.”
That was the time when G1 rules were put in place. Because of prices of long-listed products gradually dropping to the same prices of generics over years by the rules, we were often asked, “Is your business all right?”. We also received a question, “Where do you manufacture products?”.
As responses to the questions, I explained, “We are specialized in long-listed products, and handle neither generics nor authorized generics. The principle of founding our company is to keep long-life medicines marketed through low-cost operation. So, we have the minimum number of MRs and conduct no promotional activities. We continue to distribute products that are manufactured at the same plant as the original MA holder, and thus they have the same quality.”
Reactions from physicians varied. Some physicians were fan of the original MA holder and encouraged us by saying, “It is a good product. So please keep going.” Some physicians said, “Can you really make business out of this?” or “I look forward to the future of your company.”
Few physicians knew the name of LTL Pharma when we started our sales team. However, as a result of our activities of delivering information to medical institutions that need data on LTL Pharma products, I now feel that the level of their recognition of our company has increased.
I believe that it is important for MRs to efficiently use public transportations, corporate vehicles, and rental cars for their activities to deliver information in an extensive area. Some MRs travel to their responsible region by air or bullet train, stay overnight, and visit sites on the following day by a rental car. Some MRs use subways or JR only. Two years into our activities in the current organization, each MR is aware of making a visit in their responsible area, using the optimal means of transportation.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic significantly affected MR activities. In some medical institutions including key hospitals, it is difficult for MRs to visit medical professionals due to its preventive measures for infection and deliver information in person. Opportunities to deliver information in person are decreasing, while opportunities by non-face-to-face are increasing.
For example, there have been increasingly more opportunities to contact remotely, such as emails. In such circumstances, there is decreasing demerit of small scale of company compared to the past, and it becomes possible for smaller number of MRs to deliver information that meets a need of their customers.
Some articles report that online visits are on the rise, but this is the case with new drugs. As for delivery of information on long-listed products, a visit is rarely requested. But if a customer requests our visit, we will pay due attention to prevention of infection for visiting and deliver information that meets a need of the customer.
Mentioning the management’s view for presence of MR, I think there are few companies where MRs take on a challenge of accessing customers in a wide area as our MRs do. The pandemic makes it difficult to build a relationship of trust with customers by meeting them, but our experiences of covering a wide area are indeed assets for the company and for MRs.
There are two drivers. In September 2018, the guidelines for sales promotion and information provision of prescription drugs were issued by Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. One is that, I think, MR activities of LTL Pharma have been close to the ones required in the guidelines since Sales team was kicked off.
There is no promotional material and sales target for LTL Pharma MRs. Although MRs do not have a sense of achievement in attaining the sales target, there are many MRs who find it rewarding to play a role of MR as it should be for properly providing information and collecting side effect reports.
The other is continued employment opportunities to work beyond the age of 60. There are a lot of seniors working for the company. Most of MRs handled new drugs for lifestyle-related diseases. Their experiences and know-hows can be leveraged.
If I may add one more thing, it would be that MRs can handle long-life medicines which they are very familiar with, even though these medicines were marketed by other companies at the time of their launch.
The fact that we can get involved in such products motivates me very much as well. There is no doubt about that sales of long-listed products are shrinking owing to switch to generics and NHI price revision. However, we find it rewarding that we can continue to provide these drugs to patients who need them.
Regardless of promotional activity, some physicians have already prescribed LTL Pharma’s products for patients in need. We also receive requests of information concerning our products.
Meanwhile, there is a case where our product causes a trouble due to side effect or defect of product. In addition, we have to always pay attention to supply of our products as well. Matters that can be addressed swiftly should be dealt with promptly and feedback from customers should be received sincerely. Such continuous improvement leads to “Patients First” in the end.
It is our obvious duties as a pharmaceutical company that we continuously supply drugs needed by patients and update their information. If all of us work together to fulfill such duties with pride, I believe the philosophy of our company is realized.