Two recent news stories about how pharmaceutical companies' sales representatives market to physicians provided some interesting information....
The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Wyeth has joined GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer in laying off sales representatives. A pharmaceutical sales consultant remarked, "this may be related to the issue of public trust. What we'ver realized is that we've probably gone too far." On measure of the distance traveled is the figure the Inquirer cited for the number of sales representatives working in the US prior to the lay-offs, over 100, 000, or approximately one for every seven physicians (see this post for numbers of physicians in the US versus numbers of managers). More striking was the statement that "a succesful sales representative can earn $150,000 to $200,000 a year, including a car and other perks. That's more than many primary care physicians make (see this post on physicians' compensation.)
Meanwhile, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times interviewed Jamie Reidy, the author of Hard Sell, described as a "slacker's tale," about Reidy's life as a sales representative for Pfizer. Reidy said, "I was the kid who didn't become a doctor because I almost failed high school chemistry. I was trained for six weeks and considered qualified to tell doctors which drugs to prescribe. Scary, isn't it?"
At the end, this becomes another story about the perils of blowing the whistle about the management of large health care organizations. Reidy had left Pfizer, and was working in the oncology division of Eli Lilly, advancing to a trainer of other sales representatives, until his book came out. Then Lilly fired him.
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