Pfizer targets 600 primary-care sales jobs

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It's the end of the year, and the end of the road for hundreds of Pfizer ($PFE) drug reps. The company is slashing its primary-care sales force by almost 20%, Bloomberg reports, taking its 3,000-strong army of reps down to around 2,400. That amounts to about 600 jobs, near the top end of the range predicted by sources earlier this month.

The latest cuts come as Big Pharma moves away from the megablockbuster drugs--such as Pfizer's Lipitor--that required battalions of sales reps to call on primary-care doctors. Drugmakers have been scaling back those sales forces as big-selling products succumb to generic competition, both because Lipitor and its ilk no longer warrant massive sales support and to cut costs to help make up for billions in lost revenue. As companies steer toward niche-market drugs promoted mostly to specialists, they're sizing their sales forces to detail fewer physicians.

AstraZeneca ($AZN), for example, put 3,750 sales jobs on the block earlier this year, as its sales suffered from generic competition for top-selling Seroquel. Novartis ($NVS) cut 2,000 U.S. employees to prepare for the loss of patent protection on its blood-pressure blockbuster Diovan. And Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) said last month it would cut around 480 sales-related jobs in New Jersey, now that generic competition for flagship blood thinner, Plavix, dragged third-quarter sales down by 30%.

Pfizer still has some big primary-care drugs, such as Viagra. It's also on the verge of approval for another potentially huge product, Eliquis, an anticoagulant developed with Bristol-Myers. Whether the company will hire up to support that launch--or shuffle reps to handle it--remains to be seen.

- read the Bloomberg story

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