Merck and GlaxoSmithKline are both increasing the number of sales reps operating in China, according to separate presentations given by the two companies. In both cases, added reps in emerging markets are helping to offset significant reductions in US sales forces, company executives said.
Merck's president and CEO Ken Frazier, in a presentation given at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on January 11, said sales forces in the US were reduced “by nearly one-third, 32%,” in 2010. “At the same, we were substantially increasing our presence and field force in emerging markets, like China, Brazil, and Russia,” said Frazier.
Overall, global pharmaceutical and vaccine sales forces were reduced by 12% in 2010, according to Frazier, and the company's total sales – year-to-date September 2010 – grew by 3%, he said. That growth came during a period of “maximum disruption,” when Merck was “blending sales forces [with Schering-Plough's reps], training reps on new products, and disrupting established customer relationships,” said Frazier.
In a separate presentation given in December, Mark Reilly, GSK's general manager, China and Hong Kong, said GSK had steadily escalated sales force numbers in China; as of March 2010, over 2,500 reps were working in the Chinese market, according to slides from the presentation. GSK ranked 14 in terms of market share in China, at just under 1% of the total share. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi-Aventis ranked first, second and third, respectively, with Pfizer's market share holding at less than 3%, according to Reilly's slides. The GSK presentation was given on December 1, at the CLSA Emerging Markets Healthcare Forum.