Pharma sales reps in the U.S. nearly doubled to 100,000 between 1996 and 2005 even though the number of practicing physicians rose by just 26%. If you observed the world of Pharma sales in a rear view mirror, growth was the name of the game.
Today, Pharma sales forces are being downsized. The Wall St. Journal, for example, reports that Eli Lilly has cut its US sales force by 30% so far this year as it prepare for two of its biggest drugs – Cymbalta and Evista – to face generic competition. AstraZeneca announced it would cut 1,600 jobs over the next three years.
There are a number of reasons why these companies are reducing the size of their sales forces. An important one is the mindset of Physicians. Some have had to increase the number of patients they see so they no longer have time to talk with sales reps. Others will refuse to see pharma reps even if they have the time. And a growing number of physicians prefer to receive their information online.
On the other side of the table with fewer sales reps seeing physicians face-to-face, physicians have come to accept the new normal – fewer free office lunches, reduction in paid speaker programs, and cuts in dollars paid for pharmaceutical and marketing research.
If you were to fast-forward to a picture of tomorrow these images are likely to be even more dramatically different. PWC identified seven major socio-economic trends that will have huge implications for the industry as a whole:
- The burden of chronic disease is soaring.
- Healthcare policy-makers and payers are increasingly mandating or influencing what doctors can prescribe.
- Pay-for-performance is on the rise.
- The boundaries between different forms of healthcare are blurring.
- The demand for medicines in the developing world is likely to grow rapidly.
- Many governments are beginning to focus on prevention rather than treatment although they’re not yet invested very much in pre-emptive measures.
- Regulators are becoming more risk-averse.
Added to these trends is the observation that many physicians have no history of the past. According to Dr. Robert Steinbrook at the Yale School of Medicine, “There are many more doctors-in-training over the last five to ten years who have trained in environments with less drug-industry involvement than comparable students might have had a decade earlier.”
This all means how Pharma sales reps are selected and trained will need to look strikingly different as the future unfolds. Companies that crack the code on exactly how tomorrow’s sales force will provide value to physicians will have a distinct competitor advantage.
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