Pharmaceutical companies have slashed their sales rep force by about 30% from a high of 105,000 five years ago, according to industry figures. And as the number of detailers has fallen, so, too, has another hallmark of pharmaceutical marketing: drug samples.
According to American Medical News it is no question that doctors have been on the front lines of Big Pharma’s shifting sales strategies. Their complaints that too many reps knocked on their doors–and then their no-reps-allowed and appointment-only policies–helped inspire sweeping layoffs.
Doctors may be rejoicing at the less-is-more approach to sales calls, but there’s one change they’re not necessarily happy about. As market researcher Cegedim Strategic Data reports, physicians’ sample closets have shelves that are increasingly bare.
And, some doctors are noticing the difference.
Perhaps the most important development is the demise of the mass-market blockbuster. When primary-care drugs like Lipitor and Plavix were at their height, reps delivered samples galore. Now, those big drugs are either off patent or soon to be, spending on samples doesn’t make sense. With fewer big-name brands to bring in big profits, drugmakers feel less need for sales reps and samples to promote them.
So, as Big Pharma says goodbye to the megablockbuster era, doctors may be saying goodbye to their regular delivery of drug samples, too.