Home Journal Issues Journal Index Blog Search Contact Us Help

Volume 1, Issue 2
Summer 2005:

The Death of a Saleswoman

Melissa Segalla, M.A.

Cell 2 Soul. 2005 Summer; 1(2):a10

Gene Blasen

Picture this... You are in a doctor's parking lot sitting in your car, trying to motivate yourself to get out and walk into the physician's office, knowing that soon you will be humiliated and glared at by the receptionist, med. techs, nurses and finally the doctor. This is all done in order to get the precious signature needed to complete your daily work, being a glorified delivery driver in a nice suit, a.k.a. a pharmaceutical sales rep. No one wants to see you. You are a parasite taking up their valuable time needed to treat sick patients who have been waiting in their reception area for 30-60 minutes. You have to be there so that the pharmaceutical company you represent can get the much needed exposure to sell another billion dollars on a drug that you might or might not need to improve the quality of your life. Doctors, in their infinite wisdom, tolerate your irritations so that their cabinets are well stocked with drug samples for their patients who are indigent or just needing a quick supply of the drug you peddle. You are armed with miles of paper centered on clinical studies, open ended seminars, all in the hopes that this 'pertinent information' will radically change the opinion of this fickle physician.

It all starts with a lofty goal...turn semi-intelligent, educated individuals into robotic, pathetic worker bees who are in it for the almighty dollar. Take myself for example... I worked for the BIGGEST and BEST pharmaceutical company in the world. During my 5 week training process the instructors actually told us that getting into this company was "harder than getting into Harvard Business school". I should have applied to Harvard. Let's not forget the sex angle either. The recruiters try and get every available "centerfold" candidate to apply...the tighter the shirt/skirt, the better. Did my parents really pay for me to go to a private university for this??? After the 5 week brain washing takes effect, you as the sales rep start believing that in your position you will actually make a difference in patient's lives...that you are part of chain that brings patients a better quality of life. The sick part is that some of these people actually BELIEVE this propaganda and spend every working day waiting in a long line of reps for the prized signature of a physician.

The problem, however, begins with people like me who have a conscience. How could I possibly bother a doctor, who has no time for lunch, (or to breath for that matter), and lecture to him with a rehearsed script on how fabulous my drug is compared to our competitors? Sell! Sell! Sell! The whole process is ridiculous. They don't want to hear your ramblings and could care less what new study or high gloss market piece you present to them. We as reps just have to get the physicians to write our scripts...if it takes fancy lunches, so be it. Dinners at the local country club or 'fru-fru' restaurant would be even better. The more you pamper the doctor and his staff, the more likely it is for him to write the precious prescription so coveted by the pharmaceutical company. It doesn't matter if this drug is the best one for his patient, it just matters that the doctor writes it. And let us not forget the almighty District Manager who is salivating in the wings watching you corner your favorite doctor and asking him to nod graciously while your boss is taking mental notes on your performance. God forbid you actually have a rapport with the physician and he or she likes you for you, sans the selling aids. Once you are alone with your DM in your car (which had to be washed that day otherwise there is hell to pay!) they will immediately tell you that you "missed the boat" and didn't use your valuable time with the physician to introduce the new study that was sent down the corporate pipeline. Any relationship that you have established with the doctor is immaterial. You need to SELL! More money is needed at the corporate level because your company only made thirty billion dollars last year instead of fifty billion.

The lack of ethics and integrity associated with this position never stops. I have been witness to several dinner programs where I have seen exhausted doctors and nurses roll into a fancy-schmancy establishment and sit through countless slides from a presenter who is basically there because he likes to hear himself talk, as well as pocketing a large check at the end of the evening. Everyone has worked hard all day and instead of going home to unwind and spend time with their families, they decide to treat themselves to a lavish dinner and expensive bottles of wine which the pharmaceutical company is all too happy to pay for. This isn't an AMA convention where they might learn something new. This is a dinner program that was put together by a rep to keep that hook firmly implanted in their physician's mouth. We are there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to provide sustenance for them and their staff as long as they keep writing our drugs. No cost is too high.

I lasted 9 months. I just couldn't do it any longer. I had self-respect (it was buried somewhere, but it was still there) and dignity and knew that they both would be lost if I stayed any longer. This is a MULTI BILLION DOLLAR industry that churns out super models to sell their drug of choice to the joy of stock holders everywhere! Does it matter that you tell the doctor the SAME THING every week? NO. Does it matter that there are sick patients in your waiting room expecting help instead of having a rep take up the doctors precious patient time? NO. Does it matter that quality people are prostituting themselves for a sizable bonus check and a company car? NO. This is the way the wheels of corporate American pharmaceutical sales are driven. Welcome to the world of a pharmaceutical drug rep.

Return To Top