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

But there was more than blind belief involved, wasn't there? At some point after you were hired at Lilly, at least, you started wanting to do your job: your real job of selling doctors and solving patients' problems. What changed?

I'll tell you what changed. When you walk into an oncology office, and you're in the back looking at patients hooked up to chemotherapy IV tubes, and you're listening to people with lung cancer cough, and you see people with no hair, and they're all shriveled up. You say to yourself, you know what? If you really believe in your drug, it's a good thing to get out there and try to help these patients. It's a very powerful experience to stand in the back of an oncology office.

Would you go back if you could, assuming that another company would hire you tomorrow?

In order to stay true to myself, I have to give this writing thing my full attention. I can be so easily distracted. But if I went back, I would only work in oncology.

That's really where it's at. You deal with the ultimate situation and try to discuss life and death. Once you've worked with oncologists, and seen what they're dealing with and the level of data they get into, then you really are an expert, and it's a lot more compelling to go to work every day.

So what would it have taken to get you to do your job at Pfizer?

I don't really know. It would have had to be something compelling like that, because it wasn't money. Money doesn't drive me. People who sell antidepressants will say, "Hey listen, that patient could have killed himself. I might save somebody's life." Okay, that's two iterations away. Someone went on my drug and lived longer directly because of it. Now that's something.

A breast cancer patient in Hawaii hugged me. And she thanked me. You would have thought I invented Gemzar. That was something I'll never forget.

Do you miss being a drug rep?

I certainly miss helping patients, because in spite of all the jokes I make in the book and all the heat that the industry takes in the media, you do get to help patients. Whether the doctors switch from Paxil to Zoloft and the patient does a lot better, or the patient goes on your lung-cancer chemotherapy and makes it to her granddaughter's wedding, you can really affect somebody's life. I miss that. I find that I really miss the day-to-day human interaction of walking into the offices that are mine. I used to feel kind of like the TV character, Norm, when he walks into the bar at Cheers and everybody says, "Norm!"

You also started your career as a writer while you worked as a sales rep at Lilly. How long did it take you to write the book?

It probably took me three years but—well, it won't be a surprise since you read the book—I was really lazy about it. I would put it down for two months at a time. So it's tough to say with all the starts and stops how long it really took me.

Do you miss that lifestyle? Having the rep job with a regular paycheck, and writing the book in your spare time?

I do. Being a pharmaceutical salesman is the greatest day job in the world. Every aspiring artist, musician, and writer should become a drug rep, because you make a lot of money and you don't have to work. You know, you can get away with working 20 hours a week.

Jamie Reidy Relaxes under the pier For most of his career in pharma, Reidy focused on documenting work he didn't do. Now he goes to the beach without faking a sales call.


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