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A few months ago I started looking through the back issues of Pharmaceutical Representative. I was looking for a play by play account of the industry's rise and fall.
A few months ago I started looking through the back issues of Pharmaceutical Representative. I was looking for a play by play account of the industry's rise and fall. I didn't find it. Instead, I was struck by how little the archived pages differed from those of today. Issues were filled with stories about successful reps, healthcare reform, mergers and acquisitions, selling to physicians, new drugs and management techniques. Sure there was nothing about new business models, but otherwise it was familiar material. Each issue painted a picture of highly trained professional sales reps. The more the industry changed, the more Pharm Rep seemed to stay true to that message.
Pharm Rep as not alone in its relentless focus on the sales rep as the consummate professional. Along with the Certified Medical Representatives Institute and the Society of Pharmaceutical Trainers (later SPBT), the magazine did everything it could to promote the vision of sales rep, not as a marketing tool, but a healthcare professional whose job it was to educate physicians. It seemed to be working. As Jim Dutton told me (See, "When the Bubble Burst"), in the 1970s and 1980s reps were warmly greeted by physicians and welcomed into their offices. The rep helped instruct physicians about emerging drug therapies and provided much needed access to continuing education.
Reading the pages of Pharm Rep, you would have missed when a combination of factors—blockbuster drugs, better physician data, new marketing practices—drove the number of reps from 35,000 up to more than 100,000 in a decade. You certainly would have missed any discussion of marketing tactics that drew million and billion dollar fines and lawsuits. The magazine was too focused on professionalism to note the industry excesses. Yes, we missed the boat on that story, but I won't apologize. Even back then there were many reps who exemplified the best the industry had to offer. We'll continue to focus on that, even if we miss some of the larger story.