Washington, DC - Oct 8th, 2007 --- The disgust at the US Pharmaceutical Industry is still just under the surface of the voting public, and with the potential of Sen. Hilary Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee, and by default elected as the next President of the United States, the pharmaceutical industry is naturally worried. 2008 will be a watershed, and many Sacred Cows will have to be sacrificed as the power moves towards some form of regulated healthcare, with bulk purchasing of pharmaceutical products. The voting public has had enough!
Already there is a desire to peel back the layers of perceived excesses and publicly identify the amounts spent in promoting products to prescribing physicians. The days of wholesale corruption have passed, but the same promotional and sales structure is still in place. The voters see perky young sales reps pushing their way to the front of the line, to drop off "Freebies", feed free lunches to the overweight office staff, and badger the physician to prescribe more of their overpriced product, regardless of being needed.
Pharma sales management must surely by now that the public get very irritated at the stream of Drug Reps parading through the physicians office while they are waiting for their overdue and behind schedule appointment. Just how many free pens and notepads can a prescribing physician absorb. Of those in the know many hope the physicians wife hasn't planted a hidden camera and see there can be more perks to writing lots of prescriptions!
There are around 90,000 of these Drug Reps or as the companies like them to be described as "Pharmaceutical Detailers" . The job description states:
"Promotes use of and sells ethical drugs and other pharmaceutical products to physicians, Dentists, hospitals, and retail and wholesale drug establishments, utilizing knowledge of medical practices, drugs, and medicines: Calls on customers, informs customer of new drugs, and explains characteristics and clinical studies conducted with drug. Discusses dosage, use, and effect of new drugs and medicinal preparations. Gives samples of new drugs to customer. Promotes and sells other drugs and medicines manufactured by company. May sell and take orders for pharmaceutical supply items from persons contacted."
Now the public may look at this description and ask, "Are they pushing sales of pills, or offering qualified advice on dosage, use and effects of new drugs." The next observation would be that the majority are young women, straight out of college, with little if any knowledge of medical matters that would warrant them offering advice and guidance the qualified physicians, should they be allowed to talk to physicians with what could be unqualified and misleading information. True they are given basic training and indoctrinated in the company pitches, but come on, they are pretty, perky sales people there to peddle their pills.
That would have been OK in the 1930's with poor communications, and you can even rewrite The Music Man to feature a Drug Rep instead of a peddler of musical instruments. Today this flawed, and too public means of pitching, or detailing is nearing it's "Sell by Date". Technology is such that a physician can call up everything he ever wanted to know about a product with a few keystrokes. If there was a national, even global Pharma TV network that same physician can learn about the pro's and con's from his peers. Why would the physician want to deprive a patient of healing time to listen to a sales pitch from a young kid straight out of college.
That same question is being asked in Congress. The rich lobbyists have the upper hand in 2007 as incumbents want as many free trips, gifts and contributions as they can possibly get for in 18 months they could be out of a job, and need lobbying groups for future employment. Come 2008 things will change as public focus becomes intense, and George Bush becomes even more unpopular. Little Old Ladies dying because of being unable to pay for their pharmaceuticals makes great election TV.
The pharmaceutical industry has a major image problem on their hands, and a Dinosaur of a sales model. The question is "Will they change themselves, or be devastated by the backlash of newly elected knee jerk politicians demanding a Fresh Start?"