If you want to know just how hard the layoffs are hitting Eli Lilly just take a glimpse at their Cafe Pharma board. There you will read of whole territories that are being wiped out by the latest “reallocation” and hear of sales people who believe that the the number of layoffs is far in excess of the 1,000 people that Lilly said would be let go. While any company has to do what it has to do to survive once again we are reminded that often the reward of working hard for a pharma company is often “sorry, you’re job has been eliminated”.
Times are very hard right hard today in pharma. It costs almost a billion dollars to develop and get approval of a new drug and while there are a lot of new drugs in development the days of the blockbuster (sales in excess of $1 billion) maybe coming to an end as Congress gets set to ask the drug industry for more give backs. There are a lot of bug name drugs coming off patent and Lilly’s layoff of 1,000 sales reps is due to one of their biggest selling drugs, Cymbalta, coming off patent at the end of the year.
When I worked at Lilly I really enjoyed my time there. We had a lot of big name products to sell and the company was eager to embrace consumer marketing as a way to reach empowered patients. I learned a lot there but I also tough them a lot about internet marketing and to this day I am proud of my work on Cialis and Sarafem.com. But today with an aging pipeline and key drugs set to come off patent Lilly is a smaller company and has closed many facilities. They tried to put dollars into new drug development but too often clinical trial results did not support continued development. As their portfolio shrinks so does Lilly which is standard for a lot of today’s pharma companies.
Still I cannot help but feel for all the sales reps who learned or will be learning that they are no longer wanted or needed. Believe me when this happens, and for whatever reason, it still makes a person feel like crap. However what I am really worried about here is the ability of pharma companies to recruit talented people who want to work in pharma because they believe in the company and its products. Rather than hire people who want to put patients first they are more likely to hire people who put their paychecks first and will do whatever they need to do to keep their jobs rather than putting customers first. When that happens pharma is likely to cross into the dark side and do things that put sales ahead of good marketing.
Above all pharma companies need to give talented people a real life career path that keeps them engaged in their speciality of choice. That means consumer marketing people stay in marketing and eMarketing people stay in eMarketing. It also means that sales people who have a great relationship with their customers should be kept at all costs so doctors don’t have to start over with another trained smiling face. Relationships take a long time to build.
The pharma industry is going through a transition right now but I believe the industry will emerge stronger and better prepared to develop and market new drugs. However if pharma CEO’s continue to take home tens of millions of dollars while saying “it’s difficult to make the choice to layoff people” they are going to find employees who are more interested in chasing dollars than good marketing and sales.