Sales forces shrank in 2011, but not everywhere

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Pharmas shrank their US sales forces by 7% between 2010 and 2011, but the pain wasn't shared evenly between the biggest of pharmas, as a number of players scaled up.

Roche cut deepest among big pharmas, lopping off a third of its Full-Time Rep Equivalents, while Abbott and Sanofi were close behind, downsizing 23% of their FTEs, according to an analysis by Cegedim Strategic Data. GSK cut its FTE force by 22% and Bayer by 19%.

But Boehringer Ingelheim and Novo Nordisk went on hiring sprees, bumping up their FTE numbers by 15% and 13%, respectively, while AstraZeneca and Warner Chilcott increased FTEs 11%. Amgen's FTE count was up a whopping 32%. A number of smaller and mid-sized pharmas were hiring, too, including Gilead, Endo, Elorac and Somaxon.

Driving hiring at AstraZeneca was promotion of Crestor, the nation's most-detailed brand in 2011 with around 2.5 million details. The next-most-detailed brands were Cymbalta and Bystolic, with 2.1 million details, followed by Celebrex and Seretide, with 1.9 million, Lipitor with 1.7 million, Spiriva with 1.6 million and Symbicort and Pradaxa with 1.5 million.

The average length of details declined again in 2011, to under 5 minutes. In 2007, 70% of details were over 5 minutes. Increasingly, said Cegedim, physicians' offices, under pressure from managed care and having increased patient volume to make up for less reimbursement, “are setting aside only a small, highly competitive window of time per week for details,” while others stop seeing reps altogether.

Complicating access for reps is the fact that their employers, seeking cost-savings, are pulling back on samples, which dropped again in 2011, while brochure leave-behinds increased. Reps armed with samples are more likely to get a foot in the door than those carrying only brochures, but samples are costly to companies.

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