Lighter on sales reps, Big Pharma goes digital

Assembly line workers may be replaced with robots. But to replace their sales reps, pharma companies are using iPads and websites instead. As the Wall Street Journal reports, companies that laid off tens of thousands of reps in recent years are now turning to digital means to interact with doctors.

Through websites, iPad apps and other electronic tools, drugmakers are allowing doctors to order samples, check for information on insurance coverage and get the skinny on new drugs. Some tools allow drug reps to chat electronically if doctors have questions or want more information.

The move to online and mobile detailing has been growing for some time, as drugmakers began slashing their sales forces to cut costs--and as doctors became increasingly weary of visits from multiple pharma reps.

Merck tested digital detailing for some products, and doctors responded positively. And now the company has a portal for doctors, As the WSJ reports, AstraZeneca and Sanofi have hired digital marketing agency Digitas to craft electronic tools for them, and both now have websites at which doctors can interact with the company. All three of these companies, plus Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, have iPhone and iPad apps for doctors, too.

- read the WSJ story