When was the best time to be a pharma rep?

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By Di Spencer, Pf Web Editor

In a recent Pf poll, 43% of voters chose the 1990s as the best decade to be a pharma sales representative, with the 1980s in second with 31% of the votes. The 2000s were only chosen by 10% of the voters, while 13% went for the current decade.

It is perhaps understandable that the 1990s were viewed as the ‘golden age’ of pharma. It was during this decade that a lot of the major blockbuster drugs like Lipitor and Plavix reached prominence. And with rocketing sales, pharma companies expanded their sales forces and handed out benefits and spending budgets to their sales people with the same easy generosity as the reps themselves gave out ‘Viagra’ branded pens to their customers.

The recent film Love and Other Drugs, which portrays the heady days of being a sales representative in the 90s, may have gone some way towards swaying the vote (see our review), as may the usual ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality.

In contrast, the unpopular 2000s could be viewed as the hangover following the party of the 90s – the morning after when you’re left to clean up the mess everyone else has made. With the ‘heyday’ blockbuster products reaching the end of their patents and generic competition threatening, companies began to reduce sales forces and cut back spending budgets. Changes to the ABPI Code also went a long way towards making the life of a sales representative less decadent – no more expensive client dinners, fewer company conferences abroad, and now, not even small promotional items are allowed. And all this against the backdrop of a bigger, financial hangover – the recession.

Things within the industry have certainly changed, but not everyone would agree that these changes have been for the worse. Indeed, 13% of people voted for the current decade as being the best yet, demonstrating a certain amount of optimism that things are on the up.

The flash cars, large field forces and exotic destinations may be things of the past, but for those professionals looking to make a mark, today’s more ethical and more reputable pharma industry can offer a rewarding and accountable career with the real possibility of making a positive impact on patient health – and isn’t that what it’s all about really?



Contact the author: diana.spencer@healthpublishing.co.uk