Pharma sales undergoe major shift

Pharma sales forces have been falling under the ax a lot lately. The latest: Boehringer Ingelheim plans to halve its neurology sales force, Pharmalot reports. Some 200 reps will be affected; some may find new slots in primary care sales or on another specialty team, but only if there are posts to be filled there.

Now, 200 cuts may not seem like a lot compared with the 1,200 slashed out of the Wyeth sales ranks or 1,200 from Merck's sales force or the 700-800 sales layoffs at Sanofi-Aventis. But looking at pharma sales in the aggregate, it's tough to miss the fact that it's seeing a major restructuring. Not just a winnowing among the staff, though that's a big part of it. But spending on sales looks to be on the decline as well.

Extrapolating from PhRMA's new marketing code--which prohibits individual reps wining-and-dining docs out of the office--In Vivo concludes that drugmakers want to dial back on that expensive sales-budget line item. Reps will be able to bring cheap food like pizza into docs' offices when there's an educational presentation going on and can attend outside-the-office dinners if they're handling logistics for an expert presentation. But otherwise, their doc-dining will be nil. (Other company execs can take doctors out, however.) It's a change that could save drugmakers a lot of money, In Vivo concludes, freeing it up for more consumer marketing or new media initiatives. And it's a sea change, too, away from the personal sales that have dominated in the industry for decades.

- see the In Vivo post
- check out the Boehringer news at Pharmalot