Pharma's Cheerleaders: Drug Reps' Jobs At Risk

Many people know that doors have been increasingly closing on drug reps. So it should not come as a surprise that many doctors, from primary care physicians to a variety of specialists, find that e-mails and other alternatives are an equally sufficient, if not a preferable route, for obtaining information, such as product updates and reminders, formulary changes, patient assistance facts and even new product data.

Before we give you a rundown, however, let’s catch up with the sobering statistics on the docs who are freezing out reps. On the bright side – as far as reps are concerned, anyway – no more than 7 percent of any physician category has a ‘get away and stay away’ mentality, regardless of office or hospital policy. This varies from 1 percent of urologists to the aforementioned 7 percent of internal medicine types.

Conversely, the percentage of doctors willing to see reps without any restrictions ranges from 19 percent of oncologists to 49 percent of family and general medicine practitioners. But many have limited officer hours, ranging from 14 percent of family and general medicine practitioners creating such barriers to 27 percent of endocrinologists, according to CMI/Compass, a market research firm that canvassed 2,173 physicians, including eight specialties, this past summer (here is a link where the report can be requested; registration required).

Loss of patent exclusivity has reduced revenue and led to layoffs at major pharma companies, with drug reps hit particularly hard in some instances. Drug reps, in some instances former college cheerleaders, helped fuel the prescription drug boom in recent decades.

PFE Total Employees Chart

PFE Total Employees data by YCharts

Generally, the big companies – charted here are Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), AstraZeneca (AZN), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) and Eli Lilly (LLY) – have boosted revenue per employee through cost cutting. But the picture is mixed.

PFE Annual Revenue Per Employee Chart

PFE Annual Revenue Per Employee data by YCharts

While every physician category admits a preference for detailing by a living, breathing rep, a large percentage of specialists acknowledge alternative detailing – which was defined to include e-details, web conferences and phone calls – is also satisfactory. For example, 86 percent of urologists prefer reps, and only 38 percent chose alternatives. But pediatricians have no preference – 72 percent versus 71 percent. And internal medicine physicians prefer reps to alternatives – 78 percent to 67 percent.

Meanwhile, e-mail is becoming more popular nearly across the board. Except for urologists, every category of physician prefers getting formulary changes this way. And when it comes to receiving information about patient assistance programs, each category was evenly divided between reps and e-mail.

To read the remainder of this article, go to Pharmalot.

Ed Silverman, a contributing editor of YCharts, is the founder and editor of Pharmalot. He previously reported on the pharmaceutical industry and other business topics for the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, New York Newsday and Investor’s Business Daily. He can be reached at Read the RIABiz profile of YCharts. You can also request a demonstration of YCharts Platinum.



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