A pharma salespersons confession

SUMMARY: The “confession” from a former Eli Lilly salesperson is indeed damning but shouldn’t be an indictment of ALL salespeople. However, as more and more HCP’s decline to see salespeople pharma needs to take a hard look at whether their value is really necessary.

Anyone who reads the article “I was a drug rep. I know how pharma companies pushed opioids” is going to be incensed. It’s a pretty damning indictment of the pharma industry and slinging arrows at big pharma is en vogue.

The article, which talks about sales reps at Lilly from 2000, does make a point of saying that a new code of conduct is in effect but the author seems to have a major grudge against salespeople. He, in effect, is saying that drug reps helped push the opioid crisis but eliminates blame for doctors who wrote prescriptions. The fact is that ANY physician should have known better and heavy prescribers should share some of the blame.

I was at Lilly during the author’s tenure as a salesperson. It wasn’t a good time for Lilly. The head of the Zyprexa brand team was fired because of illegal marketing and Lilly paid a steep fine and major sales decline when the activities were covered in the press. One of the people responsible went on to work at J&J and subsequently, J&J was caught for the illegal marking of Risperdal.

The author then suggests that a good relationship between a physician and a sales rep leads to more prescriptions for the brand. What they leave out, however, is the class of medications. A lot of medications today are interchangeable as pharma companies rush to market “me too” drugs so I could see this happening but I know too many doctors and to suggest that they would prescribe a medication that would hurt patients is myopic.

Let’s admits that there is blame all around for the opioid crisis including distributors, drug companies, doctors and pharmacies. I do believe the drug industry needs to look at the real benefit of salespeople and start to reduce their numbers.

There are a lot of things wrong in the pharma industry I agree but to bring up his experience of almost 20 years ago is just media headlines, not objective journalism.