Friday, July 13, 2007

Are drug company sales reps faking it?

Today I received an amazing letter from a drug company sales rep. This is the story he told me:

Why don't more drug reps resist or report unethical conduct by their managers? The answer is fake calls.

A month or two after hitting the field, every drug rep in the country realizes that there is no way they can possibly meet their "call per day" quota. This is the number of conversations they are supposed to conduct with physicians on a daily basis. Eight to ten per day for primary care reps, four to five per day for specialty reps.

While the number of sales people has tripled in the last ten years, the number of physicians has remained relatively flat. Physician access has markedly decreased because of the annoying presence of so many reps.

Pfizer's old "reach and frequency" business model is clearly dead (the more a doc hears a detail, the more he writes for the drug blah, blah, blah). But it lingers on in the minds of many unimaginative pharmaceutical executives.

So what does every drug rep do? They enter fake calls into their computer. Roughly half of their days are pure falsehood. They sit in their cars and dream up conversations with physicians, giving the company what they want. So many calls per day, per rep, that pharma thinks will generate X number of dollars. The entire industry is built upon a house of cards.

You could fire half the drug reps in the country and not even blink.

The problem is that the company can fire them for entering fake calls. So, in essence, they have an impossible task that they have to falsely document in order to keep their jobs. Most reps in any district have an agreement with each other not to go too high or too low on the average.

When they have a field ride with their managers, that's when fantasy meets reality. What they do is gather up and stack any appointment they can come up with in order to maintain the illusion that they are busy every day. And so on...

Here's the rub. Reps realize that if their district manager took a close look at their calls they could be fired. In fact, any company could fire just about any rep on any given day for entering fake calls.

So there's a big fear factor. They've got families to support. When district managers or the company mandate unethical activity, they go along with it because they know that resistance could lead to an examination of their call activity and termination from employment.

It's almost impossible for a rep to go through an entire day without being dishonest.


Anonymous said...

Hang on, I'm at Starbucks. Lemme switch computers and put in a call....

Anonymous said...

What else is new?
This has been the way it's done for many years now...and it was Pfizer and Merck in a "we have more reps than you" pissing contest that started it all.
The trend never really reached AZ until the Zeneca/Astra merger took place, and the U.S. management was turned over to the former Astra sales execs. (International mangement was left in the hands of Zeneca, the company that actually did the purchasing of Astra).
What started as a reasonably large AZ sales force became un-manageable as "team" (or pod) selling became the rage of the industry...and AZ in its' usual manner followed what everyone else was already doing. AZ is famous within the industry as coming late to the party, but still screwing it up!

The industry theory is simple - ask for 10 calls a day, and maybe you'll get 8, ask for 6 calls a day and you'll probably only get 4 or 5. "So what if you get a bunch of lies...they're scared for their jobs, so they'll get as close as they can to our demands." They know you're lying about the overall amount, but that's O.K., they also know that you're seeing more than you did before...and that's exactly what they want.

Anonymous said...

DMs were once sales reps...

Anonymous said...

In the last 10-15 years the big pharma have changed to the worse as never seen before in any business. Apart from the good things they do, it is a house built on cards that can implode any time. Take what this letter is saying. It is a complete truth that had gotten worse in the recent years when computers were introduced into daily use by reps. The old "garbage in garbage out" is selfevident here, when it comes to doctors calls.
And there is the multiple sales forces selling to same doctor the very same drugs. I coined the "Multiple Forces of Mass Promotion" - MFMP. Unlike in Iraq if one invades the BigPharmaland the MFMPs will be found. However the big pharma is about to dismantle them big time (Pfizer started) and I would hate to be a sales rep in any of MFMP. By the way the MFMP are an invention specific to bigpharma. No other business of any kind uses such a business model and never will. It simply is an insenity gone crazy.Lets watch what happens soon.

Anonymous said...

Over 20 years in this business has convinced me of one thing, most senior level execs and marketing people have no idea what happens on a daily basis in the field, but they think they do. The industry needs to shed 40% of the sales reps, and in time it will. The economic cost of these pod sales structures is too expensive. One excellent rep can do what the industry now pays 6 to do in any one geography. Does any MD really need 3 or more reps for Lipitor, Norvasc, etc? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

The point of the original post, I think, was simply that DMs and the company have more than ample dirt on you as a rep (knowing you probably are entering fake calls and they can fire you for that) to keep you from reporting the wrong-doing of your DM or company to anyone they are accountable to (DM accountable to company mucky-mucks; company accountable to shareholders and to state and federal laws that are being broken daily by said company).

I believe the author of the original post was not trying to evaluate the economic structure of more streamlined sales pods, but rather that your DM and the Company have you by the throat with the idea that if they go down, they're taking you, your livelihood, your mortgage, marriage and family (too often lost in the midst of bankruptcy) down with them.

The belief, therefore, is that everyone just keeps their mouth shut and everyone will be happy. It is the fact that they will ALWAYS have information of wrongdoing to hang over your head that keeps employees from reporting the rampant wrong-doing they witness daily. And that even the most squeaky clean employees with nothing else to bust them for, at the very least, have reported fake calls-- and that's enough wrongdoing to get them to keep their own mouths shut as a matter of self-preservation.