FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pfizer’s Shell Game

by PETER ROST, MD

So the news is finally out, after months of speculation. Pfizer, the #1 drug company which started the arms race among pharmaceutical sales forces, is finally cutting back.

And they’re not cutting back lightly. 20% reduction is a huge change when it comes to the 11,000 sales people they have on board. Most doctors, however, probably won’t miss those displaced sales reps, since Pfizer also pioneered having multiple sales forces calling on the same doctor. So I guess the cutback means those docs will only get bagels once a day in the future.

And while this is a sad development for the people involved, it probably isn’t a bad development for patients. Less sales people means less hype. But let’s get real. 2,000 more or less sales people among around 100,000 in the entire sector isn’t going to make much of a difference.

The real difference may be that for the first time Pfizer is changing course, and since many of the smaller companies are simply trying to mimic what Pfizer is doing, they will feel they have the permission to do the same.

So careful disarmament appears to be underway in the drug business.

And here’s the part you may not read anywhere else, since most journalists really don’t know how a cutback such as this one affects a drug company.

The truth is, it doesn’t; not much anyway.

Here’s the deal. I’ve reviewed lots of sales force models, sales force restructuring scenarios, etc. And based on all the data we had, we found not only that more sales reps give a diminishing return, but we also found something else, which we didn’t expect.

We learned that before that diminishing return hits home, there is a very wide flat area. What that means is that each new rep pretty much paid for himself; but he didn’t add much incremental revenue.

So the good news was that you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist when you organized a pharma sales force. A few thousand more or less really doesn’t make much of a difference. In the end, whichever size was used, they brought home about the same profit.

So why is Pfizer doing this?

For those of you who don’t know, Pfizer is trying to achieve annual savings of $4 billion by 2008.

2000 reps, with a salary cost of $100,000, plus car and a few other costs, probably no more than a total of $200,000 brings in a saving of about $400 million a year. That’s not exactly chicken shit, but it is less than 1% of Pfizer revenue and only about 3% of profit.

No major celebration from Wall Street in sight based on those cutbacks.

So, again, why is Pfizer doing this and why now?

Simple.

On Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 10:00 AM EST, Pfizer will hold its 2006 Analyst Meeting. And they probably don’t have terrific news. So they want to show they can be tough. Instill confidence in the Wall Street types.

And that’s the reason they do this now.

After all, when Pfizer’s biggest new product, torcetrapib, which reduces cholesterol, turns out to actually raise blood pressure, well, then a mass-firing of sales reps may detract some of the attention from Pfizer’s dry pipeline.

But there is more. When we look back at the drug industry, ten years from now, we will probably recognize that this was the turning point, when an entire industry started seriously contracting. So if you own drug company stocks, watch out. The worst may yet come.

Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Vice President of Pfizer. He became well known in 2004 when he emerged as the first drug company executive to speak out in favor of reimportation of drugs. He is the author of “The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman.” See: http://the-whistleblower-by-peter-rost.blogspot.com/

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail