An audit by Cegedim Strategic Data (CSD) found the number of sales representatives fell from 421,223 in 2010 to 413,565 last year.
However, the decline in medical sales positions would’ve been far more had it not been for an increase in pharmaceutical sales jobs in emerging markets such as China or Brazil.
CSD research found that the US had the most pharmaceutical sales representatives (73,762), despite losing 7% of roles compared to the previous year.
China followed with more than 65,000 sales roles after it continued to enjoy double-digit job growth creating an increase of 18.6% in jobs last year. Japan ranked third with 54,236 jobs, despite seeing a decline in pharma jobs of 10%.
France saw the biggest decline in sales jobs in Europe as roles notably declined by 12%. Jobs were also down in Germany by 2% and in Italy by 1.7%. But markets in Spain and the UK remained relatively stable.
The news was much better in Brazil where field force levels increased by 3.5% in 2011 and saw the country have the fifth most pharmaceutical sales jobs of any country.
The audit also found that sales reps preferred detailing to healthcare professionals as the main channel for communicating promotional and clinical messages, and that sales representatives accounted for more than 60% of global marketing investments in 2011.