Monday, November 28, 2005

2, 4, 6, 8, with what should you medicate! zoloft! zoloft! yay, zoloft!

Seriously, before you move on to the next blog you read, check out this story in the NYT on the recruiting of college cheerleaders as drug reps. It provokes so many different thoughts from different angles that I find myself unable to articulate anything specific about it.

Except that: Consider the question of why, given that there are many other lucrative careers in sales, there might be a particular premium in the pharmaceuticals industry. Especially since drug reps are not supposed to be selling at all, really, but just providing information so that physicians can make a better decision about which drugs to prescribe. I mean, isn't it interesting that there would be an especial premium for attractiveness in an industry where the "salesperson" in not interacting directly with the consumer, but rather with an agent who is supposed to be serving on behalf of the consumer but doesn't do any of the purchasing (or, for that matter, consuming) himself?*

Article highlight #1:
Mr. Reidy remembered a sales call with the "all-time most attractive, coolest woman in the history of drug repdom." At first, he said, the doctor "gave ten reasons not to use one of our drugs." But, Mr. Reidy added: "She gave a little hair toss and a tug on his sleeve and said, 'Come on, doctor, I need the scrips.' He said, 'O.K., how do I dose that thing?'."
Article highlight #2:
[P]harmaceutical companies deny that sex appeal has any bearing on hiring. "Obviously, people hired for the work have to be extroverts, a good conversationalist, a pleasant person to talk to; but that has nothing to do with looks, it's the personality," said Lamberto Andreotti, the president of worldwide pharmaceuticals for Bristol-Myers Squibb.
I mean, regarding the second remark, if companies offer statements like this about the people the hire, what should you think about the statements they make about the effectiveness and safety of the things you put in your body?

* Yes, this was a deliberate use of the gendered pronoun.


Tom Bozzo said...

Re the use of the gendered pronoun, from what I can tell from seeing reps working the group practice we use (where 10 of the 18 doctors are women), it looks like big pharma selects male reps similarly. Whether they're specifically targeted at the female physicians, and how the tactics may otherwise vary, I can't say.

Anonymous said...

we've got spirits yes we do,
we've got spirits,
how 'bout you?

jeremy said...

It would be an interesting experiment whether male or female physician prescribing behavior is more influenced by an attractive drug rep. (Actually, I'd be amazed if somebody with industry marketing data hasn't studied sex-of-rep effects, but obviously that's not the kind of analysis that finds its way into academia.)

Tom Bozzo said...

When I gave the article a closer second reading, I caught the sentence immediately following highlight #1, "I could never reach out and touch a female physician that way." Of course, that doesn't mean that 'best practice' isn't some subtler but still rep-attractiveness-based mode of persuasion.