Is pharma sexy?

Di Spencer explores the current trend for pharma industry exposés.

Big Pharma’s Sexy Little Secret, the next in the long line of sensational pharma industry exposés, was released in the US this month. The book promises to be a “disturbing” yet “honest” account of the “extremes” US pharma reps have to go to, doing “whatever it takes” to promote their products.

Author Jennifer Shaw is no doubt jumping on the bandwagon of the success of Love and Other Drugs, a film based on Jamie Reidy’s account of life in ‘big pharma’ Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman. Reese Witherspoon is also reportedly signed up to play a rep in the next Hollywood blockbuster Pharma Girl.

Scandalous accounts of life as a sales representative clearly sell well – but how much truth can there be in these kinds of revelatory autobiographies? Even Jennifer Shaw herself is keen to emphasise the “fictional” nature of the book, though it is likely that many readers will believe her account.

Exposés like these might be fun to read, but is it fair to pharma to present the industry in this light, and more importantly, is it fair to female representatives? The implication of Big Pharma’s Sexy Little Secret’s title and front cover is that working for big pharma is a sexy romp and requires women to virtually prostitute themselves in the promotion of their company’s medicines. Although some might wish that working for the healthcare industry was more like that, I doubt very much that this is the reality for anyone today – perhaps only a very few in the eighties! Please correct me if I’m wrong – and blog about your scandalous life as a rep on

Companies certainly should have any untoward practices brought to light, but in an age when pharma is more compliant than ever before, I believe these kinds of books can only do more harm than good, particularly in undermining intelligent and competent female sales professionals.

What do you think? Share your views below.

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