Pharmaceutical sales representative

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Pharmaceutical sales representative (formerly detailman) are salespeople employed by pharmaceutical companies to persuade doctors to prescribe their drugs to patients. Drug companies in the United States spend ~$5 billion annually sending representatives to doctors,[1] to provide product information, answer questions on product use, and deliver product samples.

Companies maintain this provides an educational service by keeping doctors updated on the latest changes in medical science. Critics point to a systematic use of gifts and personal information to befriend doctors to influence their drug prescriptions.[1] In the United Kingdom representatives are governed by a strict code of conduct from the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI). No gifts are allowed. Companies are fined and held in breach if they use the tactics described in this description.


Pharmaceutical sales representatives (also known as drug reps) have been known as "detailmen" because of their role in promoting the "details" about particular drugs in one-on-one meetings with physicians.[2][3] To support their sales activity, these sales agents acquire and use detailed personal information on doctors such as names of family members, golf handicaps, and even clothing preferences; along with what prescriptions the doctor is writing from IMS Health.[1] The reps are under intense competitive pressure against other drug companies with similar products. Beyond meeting at the doctors office, or during leisure time, the symposium circuit allows reps to discuss with doctors about their preferences while a drug researcher presents a new drug to an audience.

Doctors can receive small gifts, such as free dinners, event or travel tickets, clocks, free drug samples and swag.[4] Controversial inducements include jobs offers for the drug company, consulting / speaking fees,[5] and all-expense-paid travel to resorts[6] and exotic locations where attendance is limited or not mandatory.[7][8]

Pharmaceutical Representative is a trade journal featuring common sales tactics such as how to close a tough sale by flattering a stubborn doctor.[9] Along with flattery, the attractiveness of sales reps has been noted, with a trend of former cheerleaders entering the field.[10] Researchers note; "seduction appeared to be a deliberate industry strategy",[10] and in informal survey by a doctor found that 12 out of 13 women sales reps said they had been sexually harassed by doctors.[10]

Me-too drugs[edit]

Sales reps push new "me-too" drugs with free samples[6][not in citation given] that are more expensive than existing generic drugs, such as Nexium which costs three times as much as its predecessor Prilosec, with no evidence of improved efficacy.[11][12] With beta-blockers and statins, me-too drugs have improved results, and increased competition while lowering prices.[11] As me-too drugs are similar but new, their side effects can be unknown and not well understood.[7] Pharmaceutical marketing / reps assert a me-too drug may work better than another, but they "don’t test their me-too drugs in people who have not done well with an earlier drug of the same class."[13]


In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed laws banning "gifts of substantial value" of drug companies to doctors, however this has changed the gifts from objects to meals and travel.[7][14]

In 2006, New Hampshire forbid the sale of prescription data to commercial entities.[15][16]

Encountering ill-informed reps at his practice Dr. Dan Foster, a West Virginia surgeon and lawmaker, introduced a bill to require reps to have science degrees.[10] While it did not pass, it led to a disclosure of minimum hiring requirements.


In Australia the government funds academic detailers that are impartial medical students who provide drug information to medical professionals.[7]


Cheerleading athletes have been noted as a recruitment target by companies to hire as pharmaceutical sales representatives.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Adriane Fugh-Berman; Shahram Ahari (April 24, 2007). "Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors". Public Library of Science. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Handley, Richard T (2008). "Ethical Considerations Of Pharmaceutical Sales In The Primary Care Arena". 7 (1).  External link in |journal= (help);
  3. ^ Elliottt, Carl (April 1, 2006). "The Drug Pushers". The Atlantic. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Weintraub, Arlene (October 22, 2006). "Online Extra: Cracking Down on Pharma Swag". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Ornstein, Charles; Tracy Weber (Oct 18, 2010). "Lawsuits Say Pharma Illegally Paid Doctors to Push Their Drugs". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Haavi Morreim, E. "Prescribing Under the Influence". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Pomper, Stephen (May 2000). "Drug Rush". The Washington Monthly. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  8. ^ Merrill, Jeremy; Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, Sisi Wei and Dan Nguyen (June 24, 2013). "Dollars for Docs: How Industry Dollars Reach Your Doctors". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c d SAUL, STEPHANIE (November 28, 2005). "Gimme an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales". New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Murti, Yogesh (Wed, 05/07/2008). "Me-Too Drugs : Good or Bad?". Retrieved 8 July 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ SPECTOR, ROSANNE (2005). "Me-too drugs". Stanford Medicine Magazine. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Meredith, Peter (Sep 7, 2004). "The Truth About Drug Companies". Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "FAQs". Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  15. ^ First-in-the-nation law pits N.H. against drug industry
  16. ^ CHAPTER 328 - HB 1346 – FINAL VERSION
  17. ^ Saul, Stephanie (28 November 2005). "Gimme an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales". The New York Times. New York: NYTC. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]