More bad news for pharma sales reps?

Pfizer's teaming up with Protalix BioTherapeutics on a Gaucher's disease drug certainly signals the company's interest in niche treatments for rare diseases. But it also is a bad sign for pharma sales reps far and wide, BNet Pharma points out. As if sales folks didn't have enough to worry about, right?

Drugmakers have been slashing sales forces left and right as they prep for the coming patent cliff that will affect so many major blockbusters. After all, once Plavix, Lipitor and their ilk have lots of generic competition, why field huge sales teams for those declining brands? But as industry observers have speculated--and Pfizer's deal with Protalix seems to emphasize--the era of enormo-blockbusters is on the wane. The future lies in specialty drugs and the even-more-narrow rare disease market. And by definition, sales armies aren't required to conquer those specialized fields.

Indeed, some industry experts have suggested that pharma sales should focus on payers rather than doctors, to make sure drugs get placed favorably on insurance company and government formularies. Others--namely Genentech's Joe McCracken, as BNet notes--suggest that field detailing be replaced with call centers that can help patients get reimbursed for their meds. And with treatments for rare diseases such as Gaucher's, marketing is "more of a medical education effort," with a focus on reimbursement issues, Pfizer's Andrew Curtis said. So is it bye-bye detailing? What's your prediction?

- read the BNet post

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