Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pompom Pharmaceuticals

With apologies to my friends who are pharmaceutical reps, I couldn't resist this New York Times story about how drug companies are now actively recruiting sexy cheerleaders to peddle their wares to doctors.

Reporter Stephanie Saul obviously had fun with this story:

"Anyone who has seen the parade of sales representatives through a doctor's waiting room has probably noticed that they are frequently female and invariably good looking. Less recognized is the fact that a good many are recruited from the cheerleading ranks.

"Known for their athleticism, postage-stamp skirts and persuasive enthusiasm, cheerleaders have many qualities the drug industry looks for in its sales force. Some keep their pompoms active, like Onya, a sculptured former college cheerleader. On Sundays she works the sidelines for the Washington Redskins. But weekdays find her urging gynecologists to prescribe a treatment for vaginal yeast infection.


" ... Women have an advantage with male doctors, according to Jamie Reidy, a drug representative who was fired by Eli Lilly this year after writing a book lampooning the industry, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.

"In an interview, Mr. Reidy remembered a sales call with the 'all-time most attractive, coolest woman in the history of drug repdom.' At first, he said, the doctor 'gave ten reasons not to use one of our drugs.' But, Mr. Reidy added: 'She gave a little hair toss and a tug on his sleeve and said, "Come on, doctor, I need the scrips." He said, "O.K., how do I dose that thing?" I could never reach out and touch a female physician that way.''

I have often marveled at the sheer shamelessness of the whole pharmaceutical sales shtick and the trappings that come with it -- free car, free gas, decent wages, relatively good hours and the opportunity to relax in physicians' waiting rooms while leafing through two-year-old issues of Ladies Home Journal. And for what? To push a handful of pharmaceuticals by plying doctors with model cars, fancy meals, green fees and exotic fish. Well, I don't really know about the exotic fish, but I'm pretty sure that other stuff is true.

Still, you can't fault struggling drug companies for doing what they've gotta do. I mean, the folks at Merck have gotta eat -- right? And in a profession still largely dominated by men -- men who drive Hummers and pray to themselves at night, by the way -- it just makes sense to sway them with drug representatives boasting perky breasts and perfectly sculpted midriffs. Hell, just be glad these cheerleaders aren't hawking leeches.

For that matter, with just two lesbian South Carolina Panther cheerleaders in the mix, you could probably sell off warehouses full of Thalidomide.


At 10:12 AM, Blogger Ceres said...

What bugs me about the drug reps is how they manage to sashay right into the doctor's office while I have been waiting for 15 minutes. They really should give the drug reps a secret passageway so my blood pressure isn't elevated before my appointment. Just don't take away the drug samples.

At 2:11 PM, Blogger CGHill said...

Then you'd really be appalled to hear that thalidomide has actually been approved by the FDA for the treatment of leprosy.

As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. The trade name is "Thalomid."

(Manufacturer's page)

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the drug companies use sexy young women to sell their meds, what kind of hunks to they send to the offices of female doctors?

At 7:14 PM, Blogger Brit said...

Ha ha, I read this story too.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, this was just crazy, Chase. Absolutely insane.

I mean, what other industry uses good-looking people to sell its product? I can't think of a single one...

Oh, wait, there's TV news ... and movies ... oh and the music industry .. magazines ... automobiles ... uh, hmmm, well, I was pretty darned sure pharmaceutical sales was the only one.

At least, gosh, that's what the NY Times article sort of implied. And the NY Times is the word of god (little "g" to make sure no one is offended, and really it's just "god" in the sense of a comforting thing in your life, like, say, a puppy).

Of course, those industries can come right back with the standard line they use to defend themselves on just about everything: "But we don't make life and death decisions..."


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