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Pharmaceutical Sales Careers

Updated on October 15, 2010



The Demise of the Pharmaceutical Sales Career

Years ago, when I started out in the industry as a pharma sales rep, this industry of pharmaceutical sales was truly a career. Even if all you wanted to was to be a career pharmaceutical sales rep, it could be done. Unfortunately those days are long, long gone!

Once Pfizer’s blockbuster Lipitor goes generic, which will be very soon, the end of the pharmaceutical sales career will be all but over. Whether or not you are in the cardio drug space or not you will be affected. All of you will. At my company, and a couple of others, contract sales reps earning $40,000 to $45,000 per year are slowly taking the place of pharmaceutical sales reps who are earning $80,000 to $100,000 plus per year. To be more specific, take a look at a company like AstraZeneca.

Last year they announced the introduction of contract reps to, supposedly, sample only the lower ranked doctors. That they would only sample and not promote. That they would deal with the “mature” brands. Well slowly but surely what their upper management knew, and what we knew at this level at other companies, was that their level of responsibility would increase. Surely they went from sampling only to being trained to promote other products like their respiratory drug Symbicort and now they are launching a new medication. By this time next year I guarantee that their level of responsibility will move into replacing more of their tenured reps.

Other companies are also in the works or testing out similar pilots. A combination of not just contract reps, but also inside sales or telephone support reps and e-detailing programs. The end, if you will, of the traditional pharmaceutical sales career. Over the next couple of weeks I may introduce you to a new Plan B option, this one coming from a marketing/e-commerce expert that I know very well. I strongly urge the pharma reps and managers reading this to give up the concept of a pharmaceutical sales career. It is non-existent. No more rumors. It’s happening all around us. Protect yourselves and look for an exit strategy and fast.

To that effect take a look at the following Executive Search Company. While they do focus on C level executives, they are also actively looking for high powered sales reps and mid-level managers in key metro areas. The salaries range from $80,000 to $200,000 plus. I suggest you create a profile with them and look for careers in industries outside of pharmaceuticals. Think outside the box and don't limit the industries you want to get into. You will have less competition if you switch industries and will bring a fresh, valuable perspective to your new employer.


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      Guest 7 years ago

      I agree. My father started out as a rep about 30 years ago, now is a District Manager and is asking me to get out, he will soon retire, but as a rep he says I'm wasting my time.

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      Michael 7 years ago

      Excellent post! Thank you. The pharmaceutical industry is certainly under a lot of scrutiny

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      WB#1 7 years ago

      This is completely true. Get out while there is time for you if you are stuck, milk them till you can and walk away with severance or retire.Those who truned pharma selling into science (it was an art) ruined it forever. Thanks god I am out.