Case Study

GSK – Sales Incentives Programme and Healthcare Provider Engagement Model

Company GlaxoSmithKline plc, United Kingdom
Sub category of Industry R&D Pharma
Category of commitment Appropriate Use
Which product(s) Small molecule, Vaccines
Key focus Education, Promotion
Key partners of the program Healthcare professionals, Sales representatives
Geographic focus Global

Health needs

Antibiotics need to be conserved and used appropriately to minimise the development of resistance. Sales and marketing activity focused purely on driving volume of sales risks being counter to what is appropriate for antibiotics.

Initiative’s objective

Several years ago, we recognised a growing concern that the way the industry provided information and education to healthcare professionals may create a perception of conflict of interest. We also wanted to address concerns about undue influence on prescriber behaviour linked with the way we compensated our sales force. By changing our promotional and marketing practices our aim has been to put patients’ needs first, and enable patients to know that if a doctor prescribes any GSK product, including our antibiotics, it is entirely a clinical decision without any other considerations affecting the decision.

Initiative’s description

GSK recognises its responsibility to reduce any perception of undue influence over healthcare professionals on the prescribing of products. Our approach to this includes the following:


Sales incentives programme: Starting in the US in 2011, and then expanding the approach worldwide by January 2016, GSK sales representatives are no longer incentivised based on the number of prescriptions generated for any products. Rather than traditional “sales targets”, we reward our sales force based on their expertise and quality of service. We believe this will help reduce inappropriate prescribing and use of all medicines, including antibiotics.

Engaging with healthcare professionals: From January 2016, GSK stopped paying healthcare professionals to speak to other prescribers about our prescription medicines and vaccines. We will continue to pay healthcare professionals for providing services and participating in our clinical research and this will be governed by rigorous controls and based on fair market value. GSK is committed to disclosing the payments we make to healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations, on an individual or aggregate basis. We believe this approach can help reduce perception of any risk of undue influence over prescribing of products.

These changes have challenged industry norms. Amongst other impacts, they are critical to seizing the opportunities of a fast-changing healthcare landscape, to building trust and to ensuring that patients are prescribed the most appropriate medicine, at the most appropriate time.


This values-based approach has received positive feedback from healthcare professionals and in a survey of US healthcare professionals in 2016, GSK ranked first for customer trust for the fourth year in a row, and for customer value for the third time.

Lessons for success

This is the second year where the entire company worldwide has been operating with our new model for engaging with sales representatives and with healthcare professionals. The strong delivery of our business performance convinces us that the changes we’ve made are both good for our business, enable us to continue to put patients’ needs first and are improving the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry overall.