Bad Rep? A Q&A with Jamie Reidy - Pharmaceutical Executive


Bad Rep? A Q&A with Jamie Reidy
Jamie Reidy wrote the book on how to slack off as a pharma sales rep. Now, the sales manager's nightmare unveils more scams, sizes up the corporate selling culture—and reveals what finally made him care.

Pharmaceutical Executive

So the boss calls headquarters and says, "We've got a problem. What am I going to tell the guy? He's right. That's all we're asking for."

What did the company do?

Let's say they shifted focus. They said, "Listen, that five is a goal. We would like you to strive for that, but by all means don't avoid your biggest customer just because it always takes three hours and you have to get your five calls a day." So it was actually an awesome wake-up call. The reps of the country rejoiced.

You worked as a roving sales trainer, so you got to see a lot of different reps interact with doctors. How did you come to see the job differently?

The really interesting observation for me as a trainer—the second guy in the waiting room—was how in-the-way drug reps are, and how much we stand out. Patients know exactly what we're doing. I guess I sort of blocked it out as a rep, all the dirty looks you get from patients. It was really an eye-opener for me. I just felt, wow, we don't belong here.

Imagine you're in the doctor's office with your mom who has breast cancer. The doctor's an hour late, and while you're waiting two well-dressed people walk in with bags of M&Ms and chat it up with the nurses. Then they go back and they're back there for a half hour. You know why the doctor is late. And that gets very upsetting for people, especially when you're dealing with something as sensitive as cancer. Man, I'd be crawling in my skin to get out of there.

Another thing struck me about your book. On the one hand, you were the slacker guy with an ironic distance from his job. But on the other hand, you got pretty excited about your products. Where did that come from? How much of it was trained into you?

I think it came from the brainwashing that happens in training. And I got it more so at Pfizer than I did at Lilly, because the Pfizer training staff was so impressive, and the people they kept bringing in to speak to us were so impressive. They keep rolling out the next drug, which is the best, and here is why. So you learn everything—or at least you think you learn everything—about your competing drugs.

I will still to this day argue why Zithromax was the best antibiotic in America. I can still give you the five reasons why it's better than Biaxin. And I will argue to my dying day that Zoloft was a better drug than Prozac and Paxil. And don't even get me started on Zyrtec and Claritin.

But the great thing is, if you talk to people from Lilly, they'll say that Prozac was a way better drug than Zoloft, and boom, boom, boom, here's why. And the Biaxin people say the same thing. So I think it's just like you always think your school team is better—whether it really is or not. You get that spirit going, combined with a little data to support your position, and you've got a pretty strong start.

That might explain why doctors take much of what companies say with a grain of salt. Doctors say they want studies that were not funded by the pharmaceutical industry. As drug reps, you're only getting the data the company gives you, right?

Correct. Here's an interesting thing I never knew—and if you want to talk about being na and drinking the Kool-Aid, go ahead—I never knew that studies are done, but we don't see the results. That was news to me, and I don't know if I'm the lone idiot who didn't realize that. But to find out that all these trials were done, and the results were not released, that was certainly an eye opener.


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