Perceptions of the provision of drug information, pharmaceutical detailing and engagement with non-personal promotion at a large physicians network: a mixed-methods study

BMJ Open. 2021 Jan 18;11(1):e041098. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-041098.


Objective: Non-personal promotion (NPP) such as digital, print-based marketing, direct promotional visits and free drug samples are means of pharmaceutical marketing. This study described practices of drug information, pharmaceutical detailing and engagement with NPP at an integrated network of providers.

Design: This was a sequential explanatory mixed-methods study. A survey was followed by semistructured interviews. The questionnaire elicited preferred sources of drug information, management of drug information and perceptions on drug samples, coupons and pharmaceutical representative visits. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics (quantitative) and content analysis (qualitative).

Setting: Face-to-face or telephonic interviews were conducted at a large physicians network in Northern Kentucky.

Participants: Eighty-two medical assistants, primary care, specialty providers and other office staff who completed the survey and 16 interviewees.

Results: Most respondents were women (79.3%), office managers (26.8%) and individuals employed for 15 years or longer within the organisation (30.5%). Most participants (85.3%) indicated that pharmaceutical representative visits are the most common source of drug information. Paper-based material was the most frequent form in which information was received in physician offices (62.2%). Medical assistants were usually responsible for handling drug information (46.3%) on arrival in the office, compared with 15.3% of physicians. Drug representative detailing and lunches (62.2%) were the desired method of drug information communication followed by electronic mail or e-journals (11%). Interviewees generated three themes that described pharmaceutical representative visits and interactions with prescriber and non-prescriber personnel in the offices.

Conclusions: We found significant involvement of non-prescriber personnel in drug information management at primary and specialty care offices. Participants perceived that pharmaceutical representatives have an important role in keeping the offices informed and supplied with relevant drug information, coupons and samples. Findings highlight the importance of engaging prescriber and non-prescriber personnel to guarantee relevant information reaches providers.

Keywords: general medicine (see internal medicine); health services administration & management; quality in health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Drug Industry*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Kentucky
  • Marketing
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • Physicians* / psychology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations