Job security for pharma sales reps is looking bleak, going by the results of a ZS Associates study. The survey found that the number of US reps has plummeted 10% since 2007 to 92,000, and the management consultancy projects a further decline, to 75,000 by 2012.

The data, first reported in the AMA’s American Medical News, reflects industry efforts to cut costs as more doctors close their doors to drug reps.

According to TNS Healthcare, for every 100 reps who visit a physician’s office, only 37 leave their company’s product with the doc, while only 20 actually have a face-to-face encounter with the doctor. PriceWaterhouseCoopers reports that profit per drug rep visit dropped 23% from 2004 to 2005.

SK&A Information Services said about a quarter of physicians work in practices that prohibit visits with drug reps. Of those physicians who do see reps, 40% will meet with reps only with scheduled appointments.

Changes of recent years, including increasing time constraints on physicians, the curtailing of gifts to physicians by reps and emerging online communication channels, have contributed to the decline in face-to-face interaction.