Between 2010 and 2011, drugmakers trimmed their sales teams by 7 percent. But despite the huge number of sales reps being thrown overboard in recent years, select hiring does still occur. The obvious impetus is when a new drug is approved by the FDA. Of course, such hiring may not compensate for lost jobs, but several drugmakers last year did grow their sales forces, according to a new report from Cegedim Strategic Data.

Among them was Boehringer Ingelheim, which expanded its rep roster by 15 percent as part of a big promotional push for the Pradaxa bloodthinner. Next up was Novo Nordisk, which increased the number of reps by 13 percent, partly in response to new competition in the diabetes market. Other big drugmakers that added reps included AstraZeneca, Warner Chilcott and Dainipon Sumitomo Pharma. Exact numbers, however, were not available.

Conversely, Roche dumped 33 percent of its reps, while Sanofi and Abbott Laboratories each eliminated 22 percent of their sales forces. Right behind them was GlaxoSmithKline with a 22 percent cut. Bayer rounded out the top five big drugmakers by eliminating 19 percent of its reps. As reported previously, though, hiring in sales and marketing overall has been dropping (see this).

Meanwhile, for those who enjoy counting the minutes… Almost half of the details – or visits made by reps – to general practitioners and internal medicine docs were less than five minutes last year. By comparison, more than 70 percent of the visits lasted longer than five minutes in 2007. Similarly, reps were leaving fewer samples, which is not surprising (see here), although Cegedim did not provide specific year-by-year comparative numbers.

“What we saw happening in the last year was very much a reflection of the overall market, such as Lipitor going off patent and only a handful of companies putting additional effort into product launches. In general, there were no real surprises,” says Jerry Maynor, director of marketing and business development, North America, at Cegedim. “We’re beginning to see another phase in development of sales force marketing as people talk about the end of the blockbuster.”

By Ed Silverman, from Pharmalot, May 17, 2012