Conference explores CSO issues, trends

Pharmaceutical Representative

Options for outsourcing sales forces and overviews of how pharmaceutical companies have successfully managed partnerships with contract sales organizations were the main topics of discussion at the Center for Business Intelligence's conference on the contract sales industry in Atlantic City last June.

Options for outsourcing sales forces and overviews of how pharmaceutical companies have successfully managed partnerships with contract sales organizations were the main topics of discussion at the Center for Business Intelligence's conference on the contract sales industry in Atlantic City last June.

In a two-day format, the conference featured presentations by pharmaceutical companies and contract sales organizations that included overviews of the industry and in-depth explorations of key issues the industry and its pharmaceutical partners face.

Conference chairperson Steven Tarnoff, managing partner of The Franklin Group, a Somerville, NJ-based consulting firm serving the pharmaceutical industry, began the conference with a look at the growth in contract sales forces. According to Tarnoff, the rate of outsourced sales force utilization has increased dramatically; from 2.6% of total sales reps in the field in 1994 to 11.2% in 1997. The drivers of this growth, he said, include general growth of the pharmaceutical industry, a shrinking playing field of possible copromotion partner companies due to mergers and acquisitions, the need for companies to shift fixed costs to variable costs and the industry's steady stream of new product approvals.

Another presentation by Jack Rubin, manager of sample accountability and medical needs for Roche Labs Inc., and Stephen J. Haynes, managing director of Integrity Research Group and former FDA special agent in charge of investigative operations, drew attention to the liability issues that face organizations engaged in outsourced sales forces, such as sample accountability, signature protocol and criminal and civil penalties.

Some issues - specifically the hiring, training and retention of sales representatives - were not addressed at the conference. Steve Zisson, a conference attendee and managing editor of CSO News, a bimonthly newsletter that covers the industry, said: "The most interesting issue facing the industry, I think, is how pharmaceutical companies will integrate their sales forces with contracted sales reps." PR