• Christopher Haggarty-Weir

Effexor and Buyer Behaviour

The pharmaceutical industry is one with many rich customer interactions due to the nature of over-the-counter drugs, and prescription only medicines. This means that there will be a mixed customer base, from distributors, hospitals, doctors, and patients themselves. Understanding the behaviour of different customer groups is vital for maintaining business competitiveness.


This article examines the buyer behaviour behind Pfizer’s Effexor product (the brand name for the pharmaceutical compound venlafaxine), a type of drug used predominantly in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Here we are going to classify the buyer into three types; patients prescribed the drug, pharmacies that stock it, and governmental organisations that bulk purchase after price negotiations. A model of buyer behaviour for Effexor will be given, followed by both organizational buyer and individual consumer models.

Buyer Behaviour Model

Before investigating specific models for organizational and individual buyers of Effexor, it helps to first understand general consumer behaviour in the drug market. Taking the general model of consumer behaviour (as shown in Wells & Prensky, 1996) and tweaking it for a drug we see that: there is need recognition (need for the drug), option identification and evaluation (what different drugs can be obtained and what are their differences?), purchase and use, evaluation of the experience (that is, the experience with the purchased drug), feedback, and the completion of the experience (as displayed in Figure 1). These are all commonalities between both organizational and individual buyers, however there are some important details which will now be explored in more depth.

Figure 1. Simplified Buyer Behaviour Model for Prescription Pharmaceuticals:

Organizational Buyer Model

Aside from the model shown in the green section of Figure 1, certain specifics should be mentioned. Driving the reason an organization would purchase Effexor depends on the type of organization. Whilst both pharmacies and governmental organizations such as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), see a need to stock drugs, each has a slightly different reason for why. Pharmacies need to stock drugs to meet patient prescribing demands driven by their prescribing doctor. The NHS however, acquires drugs in bulk after negotiating with suppliers to get large discounts to prevent high drug prices for taxpayers (unlike in the US, where consumers are left paying more). Due to the efficacy of Effexor and since it is one of the most prescribed antidepressants, it makes sense for pharmacies to ensure a constant stock of this drug. Regarding organizations like the NHS, they will of course be driven by cost-saving and since many cheaper generics of Effexor exist, they would only be driven to purchase from suppliers if enough doctors can be persuaded to prescribe Effexor with the ‘no substitutions’ box ticked on the prescription, which would have to be guided by evidence.

Individual Consumer Model

Aside from the individual consumer model details given in orange in Figure 1, there are some important intricacies to go into. Due to restrictions placed upon pharmaceutical companies regarding the advertising of prescription-only medicine, there are fewer options for influencing purchase decisions by patients regarding Effexor. Individuals will be prescribed Effexor only if either the doctor ticks ‘no substitutions’ on the prescription or if the pharmacist is incentivized to stock Effexor over generic products. This creates an unusual situation for a product whereby individual consumers are not the direct target despite being the end user. Rather Pfizer’s marketing and sales team would need to target doctors showing them evidence that the formulation of Effexor is superior to competing generics, and/or financially incentivize pharmacists to purchase and stock Effexor over generics.


Hopefully you now have a bit more of an understanding of the general overview of the buyer behaviour model and have been shown how it can be tweaked to formulate models for individual and organizational consumers (of drugs in this case). Further, specific information pertaining to the marketing of Effexor to these groups and how it fits into the models for each has been divulged, in particular, the differences in thought process at each stage of the general buyer behaviour model. As opposed to organizations, Effexor cannot be directly marketed towards the individual consumer (the patient), and thus requires indirect methods to reach them. Personally, I find consumer behaviour a fascinating area, and trying to develop methods to optimize consumer flow and product/service uptake is vital for keeping one's business competitive, even those not working in the pharmaceuticals sector.


Wells, W.D. & Prensky, D. (1996). Consumer Behaviour. New York, Wiley.

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