Medical sales reps in India are facing a rapidly cooler climate just at the time the country's key pharmaceutical industry is scaling up to sell more drugs at home and abroad as countries look to cut costs for national healthcare plans by using more generics.
The reps are also the victims of previously disclosed questionable practices by drug companies that were plying doctors and other customers with freebies such as paid vacations and cruises that came under the legal eyes of regulators.
And where medical reps were once welcomed with open arms by doctors, many offices now post signs saying "medical representatives NOT allowed," according to a recent report by the Bangalore Mirror.
The report said poor salaries, a lack of science graduates and high attrition at drugmakers have led to a culling of reps across the country.
One drug CEO said getting good medical reps was "our greatest challenge," according to the report.
Another official, Sunil Attavar, president of the Karnataka Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers' Association and managing director and chairman of Group Pharmaceuticals, said in the report that only science grads were previously employed as medical reps but now companies are opening up to "commerce and arts graduates because of the shortage."
Money remains an issue he added because Information Technology and other industries offer higher salaries. Attrition as well as employee poaching also is compounding the problem.
The industry is also trying to respond to the problem of the questionable deals given to doctors by considering an "ethical marketing code" that would govern the practices of medical reps. Up to 50 companies held a closed-door meeting last October to consider a voluntary code ahead of efforts by the government to impose mandatory rules.
- here's the report from the Bangalore Mirror