Is pharma sexy? – a riposte

Pf’s Industry Insider takes a walk on the ‘seedy’ side of pharma.

I’d like to answer this rhetorical question firstly with a paraphrased quote from the inimitable Woody Allen, namely: “yes, only when it’s being done right!”…but of course I am joking, or am I?

Any pharma sales employee from either side of the Atlantic whose career has included the last 20 years or so will surely agree. How many times have we heard about the importance of nurturing relationships with our prescribers? ‘Become more customer-centric’, ‘people buy people’, ‘understand their needs’ – the list of sales clichés are endless but they also are largely truisms.

Sexual relationships between pharma and medicine, whilst not quite being as old as the oldest profession, are certainly not uncommon in my experience, and let’s not just attribute such improper (or proper, depending on your point of view) practices to female representatives in this age of equality! Off the top of my head I can think of at least six rep/doctor relationships in my vicinity which have ended up with a marriage certificate and they are certainly not exclusively female reps going beyond the selling call of duty – I estimate the ratio would be almost 50:50 in fact. More casual relationships were also not a rarity in the past, often as a result of industry largesse and alcohol acting as a conduit! However enduring the rep/medic union, they were merely an expression of the industry zeitgeist.

Whether you think that these practices are untoward or not probably depends on which direction your moral compass points to. My personal view is largely pragmatic. Strong and close relationships with our prescribers has always been and will remain fundamental to our profession so we really shouldn’t be surprised when mere product detailing and good customer service occasionally moves to a more intimate level.

One final observation which needs to be made whilst musing on this important and ethical question. There is a definite American bias to this recent tide of industry exposés which needs some redressing. Where’s the UK-based kiss and tell stuff? Surely this isn’t further proof of our British natural reserve and reticence. We must have some tales to tell... I for one have seen my fair share of doctor/rep shenanigans over the years but I won’t be consigning anything to print just yet until I consult a good libel lawyer and find a literary agent to secure my book deal!

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