Pfizer mulls massive sales-rep cuts

We've been hearing rumblings of a big cut in Pfizer's sales force, and now those rumors are hitting the news: Company brass is considering lopping off one-third of its reps and district managers. That's a grand total of 2,400 potential cuts, the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports, quoting a Bloomberg News story.

Pfizer wouldn't confirm the plan, but a spokesman told the Health Blog that Pfizer is constantly on the lookout for ways to operate more efficiently. Earlier this week, the company announced plans to lay off 800 researchers.

If you're one to lurk at CafePharma in hopes of overhearing news (as we are), you've heard more details: That the axed reps will be told January 30, that district managers are using a combo of geography and competency ratings to determine who stays and who goes, that Pfizer-speak for "laid off" is "deselected." And you've heard that Pfizerites are talking about a 50 percent cut in sales rather than 33 percent, but that number could be inflated by layoff fear.

As you know, pharma sales reps have been walking around with big targets on their backs for a couple of years. Pfizer itself cut a swath of reps in 2006, and rep layoffs have been de rigueur among drugmakers over the past year. Merck, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline--throw a rock at Big Pharma and you'll hit a company that has cut back its sales force. And with the economy in the tank, more cuts could be on the way.

- see the WSJ Health Blog piece