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Wyeth to change marketing ploy

The value of sales reps making multiple calls on doctors has been called into question, after US firm Wyeth said it plans to cut its 2,500-strong US primary care salesforce

The value of sales reps making multiple calls on doctors has been called into question, after US firm Wyeth said it plans to cut its 2,500-strong US primary care salesforce due to a lack of effectiveness in today's marketplace.

The move could prove to be a catalyst in other major pharma firms following suit. Weaker drug pipelines, downwards pressure on prices and a perceived alienation of doctors by tired sales methods are putting pressure on firms to cut costs.

Announcing a reorganisation of its main US salesforce, Wyeth said a pilot programme would be rolled out in the third quarter and implemented fully by the end of the year.

The company would not say how many employees would lose their jobs or might be shifted to part-time work, though Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus clarified that it would be ìfar lessî than the 30 per cent reduction predicted in early US reports. Hospital and specialist salesforces would be unaffected, he added.

Joseph Mahady, president of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals' North American and global businesses, said the restructuring was aimed at solving the problems that ìthe reps, doctors and common sense were telling us aboutî.

ìWhat I think we left behind as an industry is understanding whether physicians got the same value per visit as we did,î he said.

While the plan will cut down on the number of repeat calls (known as ìmirroringî) made to physicians, Wyeth said it would make visits more detailed and worthwhile. Highlights of the plan include assigning each rep a bigger portfolio of products to sell, cutting down sales calls on the 50 per cent of doctors writing fewer prescriptions, and increasing the proportion of part-time workers.

Drugs that are currently under sale from Wyeth to primary care doctors include its biggest-selling product antidepressant Effexor XR (Efexor XR in the UK), hormone replacement therapy Premarin, and heartburn drug, Protonix.

Analysts said they would not be surprised if other drug firms followed Wyeth's lead.

ìIf Wyeth show they can save money and not take a huge hit on top-line revenue growth, other will consider doing the same thing,î said industry consultant Mark Ravera, of Strategic Pharma.

Signs that the lucrative US market is succumbing to European-style pressures are already in evidence. Two months ago, Pfizer said it would cut $4bn in costs over the next three years, including a reorganisation of its 11,000-person US salesforce.

30th September 2008

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