Why Hard Copy Articles Are Holding Strong in the Pharmaceutical Industry


I’ve been working with various organizations providing them personalized service in getting access to reprints essential to their success for over 10 years. Many of the clients I work with are pharmaceutical and similar life science companies. For these companies, their need is simple – get a hard copy of their research into the hands of physicians so they know it’s available if they ever need it.

I recently had a meeting with a pharmaceutical client who had purchased a digital link to an article. After a year of use, the link had somewhat limited usage. It’s a testament to the deeply engrained preference of physicians for hard copies of research and to the value of the tactile experience of a physical copy. While there’s no guarantee that doctors will read the physical articles they receive—in fact, there’s no way to track these stats in any kind of reliable manner—most pharmaceutical companies are willing to bet on tradition; that these doctors have a well-honed process for advancing their knowledge and learning about new therapies and drugs. And that process doesn’t often involve digital articles. Pharmaceutical companies simply want to get a hard copy of their research into the hands of physicians, so they know it’s available if they ever need it.

For many pharmaceutical companies, article reprints represent the primary way of disseminating information to educate physicians about their drug. In fact, pharmaceutical companies often help develop these articles in order to promote and publicize their research. There’s a lot of competition to get these articles published in the most prestigious journals, like JAMA and New England Journal of Medicine, to maximize their impact. When their studies are published, there’s a clear interest in (and benefit to) sharing these articles with physicians—both within the U.S. and internationally. To do this, pharmaceutical companies often purchase bulk hard copies of article reprints so they can easily distribute this important research about their drug. 

When ePrints first become readily available, the prevailing belief was hard copies would become obsolete. But today, they make up a very small portion of CCC’s bulk reprints requests.

While most of the world has gone digital, pharmaceutical companies still often prefer to distribute hard copies.

Traditionally, pharmaceutical sales reps have visited physicians’ offices and handed out hard copies of their research articles (i.e. reprints). Doctors usually view these as valuable assets to their practice. They contain high-quality, peer-reviewed research and help keep physicians aware of new drugs and treatments for their patients. While most industries have seen a clear shift towards digital content in recent years, many physicians are accustomed to these in-person interactions and to receiving physical copies of drug research. And because pharmaceutical companies continue to engage this way, little has changed over the years.

But when the pandemic erupted in the spring of 2020, pharmaceutical reps could no longer visit doctors’ offices in person to hand-deliver copies of their research—and in fact, some of the research itself was halted.  I and my colleagues in the Reprints team at Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) saw some clients suspend budget and purchase of reprints orders—and increase reliance on digital ePrints orders—in those early months. But while these trends have proven to be continually intermittent, with many physicians’ offices finally opening back up and research resuming in publication, reprints orders have seen an overall steady increase.”  

Get High-Quality Article Reprints and ePrints

CCC’s Reprints and ePrints Services provides high quality, full-service delivery for both article reprints and ePrints. Our dedicated team can supply bulk article reprints — with fast turnaround and expedited delivery.

At CCC, an experienced reprints professional personally manages your project every step of the way. Your point person will guide you from start to finish: quote, order processing, proof and production, shipment tracking, delivery, and custom invoicing. 

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Author: Christopher Liebers

Christopher Liebers has close to 15 years’ experience in reprints service and joined Copyright Clearance Center in 2017. In his current role as Reprints Accounts Manager he strives to foster and broaden relationships with existing and potential biopharmaceutical and medical device clients, as well as identify market trends and pursue new opportunities. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife, four cats, and a desert tortoise.
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