The Pharmaceutical Rep

SnapMy son was not feeling well and was spiking a very high fever. He had a dry rough cough and was complaining that his throat hurt. I scheduled an appointment for him at our pediatrician’s office to see the nurse practitioner. The doctors never see us. I assume it is because they don’t know how to treat his medical condition. Funny, if you have an autism diagnosis, doctors seem to quietly disappear. I do like the nurse practitioner we see. I need someone in our area for these types of situations. I wanted a strep test, his ears checked for infection and a flu swab. As I said, this nurse practitioner is very good to us, and she will write scripts for blood draws when needed. When we have conversations about his autism she has said to me on many occasions, “You know so much more about this than me.”

When we arrived at the doctor’s office, the receptionist informed me that they were running behind, and we would have about a 30-minute wait. No problem I said. While sitting there, I noticed a pharmaceutical representative waiting also. She was an older lady, very professional and attractive. About 10 minutes later in walked another pharmaceutical rep, a gentleman, he was also a bit older, but very well dressed and professional. They both carried their big black bags with their drug samples, waiting for the opportunity to speak with the doctors. They were making small talk about what drugs they sell and how long they had been in the business. They were making comments about how the business has changed over the years, and now there seems to be more of the “young barbie doll” looking sales rep. Just then ANOTHER pharmaceutical rep walked in. For some reason, I was a little annoyed. I started thinking, again, about what the medical/pharmaceutical industry has become. Pharmaceutical companies are not in the business of health and healing. They are in business of disease maintenance and symptoms management.

This led me to a conversation with one of my nieces who used to be a Sales Representative for a major pharmaceutical company. Because I am not familiar with how this whole system works, I decided to ask someone who actually worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep.

I asked about her training. She said the first two weeks were home study, where you read and take a test on the anatomy of the body. On her test she had to score at least an 80%. Next, she had to go to the pharmaceutical regional headquarters for 2.5 weeks for classroom training and testing. She would be selling four drugs. So they spent 2-3 days learning and testing on each drug. She learned how the drug works and who the drug would be indicated for. She said they were taught how the drug metabolizes in the body and the mechanism of its action. She told me Viagra was originally supposed to be a cardiac drug, but instead it turned out to be the ”billion-dollar side-effect” drug. It was to be a vasodilator, meaning it dilates the veins so the blood flows more easily. But one of the major side-effects was that it dilated “The Main Vein.” And, voila! Viagra was born. She went on to explain how they had to learn and do research on their competitors’ drugs. She said they do research on the efficacy and safety of the drugs, way more than they do on vaccines (which, of course, we already knew). Lastly, they had their sales training where they were taught how to sell their product. She said the rules were very strict on what they could and could not say. Once her initial training was completed she was ready to go out and start selling to the physicians.

I asked her to break down her experience of the physicians she was selling to. She said in her experience 70% of the physicians do not do their own research. They relied on her and others for the drug information. She said 20% were really bad. In fact, perverted and egotistical were the terms she used. She was shocked that they were even doctors. That leaves 10% of physicians who she said were really good. Again, this was her experience. The medical profession is no different then any other profession. There are good and bad. What is scary is that the majority of people rely on physicians for professional medical advice with regard to what medications to take to treat ailments. They rely on their opinion because they were the ones who studied hard and made it through medical school. However, the physicians are obtaining their drug information from a cute drug rep that most likely has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with zero prior medical training.

She said the pharmaceutical companies would have contests all the time. She heard reps beg doctors to please write scipts for their particular drug so they could win the contest, and the doctors would agree to do this! She said they had a contest called a Warehouse Run, where the whole sales rep team (and spouses or a friend) would go to a store like Costco and grab whatever they wanted within a certain amount of time. She said the companies were always having contests to motivate their representatives to sell more. Again, this is how the business world works; I get it. But, in the pharmaceutical world it is excessive. These are peoples’ lives we are talking about.


My son ended up having the flu. The nurse practitioner commented, “I know you won’t be treating it.” Meaning, she knew no Tamiflu or any other drug would be given to my son. I know it is just a drug that some pharmaceutical rep came in and sold to the doctor. For all I know, there may have been a Tamiflu contest that week! So very, very sad. People will research a new car, or be very picky about buying a new home, but when it comes to their health, they place it solely in the hands of the medical profession.

We need to take responsibility for our own health.

~ Snap

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20 Responses to The Pharmaceutical Rep

  1. Allison says:

    This blog is called the “thinking mom’s revolution?” You seem to quickly buy into the propaganda about an industry you know nothing about. As for the physicians responding to this blog, the fewer resources you have to draw upon, the smaller your information pool, and the greater your bias. The onus is on you to be a critical thinker and to compare clinical knowledge with real-world experience. Not seeing industry representatives because they may “bias” you is more an indication of your low self-esteem. Sorry about my overly blunt – however thoughtful & revolutionary opinion!

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

      We get some very funny comments on our site, but this is one of the funniest. We “quickly buy into propaganda about an industry” we “know nothing about,” huh? I hope you at least had trouble typing that with a straight face because I’m pretty sure anyone would have trouble reading it with one.

      The “propaganda” that exists around the industry in question comes from the industry itself, and, yeah, most of us “quickly bought into it” when we were young, but slowly, gradually, and painstakingly UNbought it. And I don’t “think” your problem with that is that we “know nothing about” the industry, but rather we know too much and are perfectly willing to talk about it.

  2. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on bringing just one product to market where it goes through perhaps the most stringent approval process (through the FDA) in the world. Pharma companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars training reps who are all college graduates, many have Masters degrees. They are intelligent, well spoken, well meaning individuals. To generalize based off of one conversation with your niece is completely irresponsible. Though there are bad people in all industries, in large part you will not find a more intelligent and good natured group. If you want to understand pharmaceutical professionals more, come visit

  3. Molly says:

    Add the the fact that your 30 minute wait was due to these pHARMa whores taking their time sweet talking their Johns… I mean doctors.

  4. Scrappy says:

    Although the Hippocratic oath would be nice for reps to take, I don’t even think most doctors follow it. I want to see jail time for everyone (reps, doctors, nurses, manufacturers…) – something like assault (injury) & manslaughter by drugs & vaccines – instead of legal immunity that they now have.

  5. My mother’s doctor’s daughter is a pharmaceutical rep. Conflict much?!

    The day of my Dad’s funeral, Mom’s doctor called. Not to offer his condolences. Certainly not to admit his part in killing Dad. No. To offer Mom anti-depressants.

  6. Saint says:

    What Sugah said

  7. Mountain Mama says:

    Thank you for the “inside” perspective. I think that everyone in the pharmaceutical industry should also have to take the Hippocratic oath (not that it would mean any more to them than it does to the doctors.) What has happened to our healthcare system is appalling.

  8. HARAKHTY says:

    What would you do if you needed food on the table and clothes on your back ?
    What would you do if you found out your 4 year degree didn’t have a job attached to it?
    2.5 weeks indoctrination ? Nothing compared to 4 years + indoctrination in Med School. Do you expect anything other than the slinging of BS, usually served warm with a perky smile, three buttons down, and short skirt. Thank God she wrapped her mind around the concepts in 2.5 weeks. Whewwwww………..RX AWAY.

  9. Oh my. Makes me even more glad the last time I took a pharmaceutical drug was more than 8 years ago.

  10. Erica says:

    It’s amazing what we don’t know as consumers about “how the real world works.” Another great article. This is exactly why I thank God every day for homeopathy. We no longer need to rely on a doctor or pharmaceuticals except in severe circumstances. My first child lived at the doctors, I’m talking practically weekly and was a chronic maintenance antibiotic kid. My third is 7 and has not even had a Tylenol. Thankfully, we only need once a year or once every other year “well checks.” The freedom from that system is life changing.

  11. Janessa says:

    yes very sad indeed. I too was a “sheepie” though when it came to my first child and vax’s etc. Then I got smart and saved my other 2. Unfortutnetly u have to b an advocate for your child and can’t believe what the docs always tell u. Very sad but very true. I know for a fact from working at doctors offices that they get “bonuses” for perscribing one drug over another.

    • dmad says:

      Most of you are ill-informed. Doctors do NOT “get bonuses for prescribing one drug over another”. Saying that implies that the pharmaceutical companies somehow incentivize or pay physicians outright to prescribe their medicines. Doesn’t happen today. Those tactics ended years ago!

      Doctors however, do get penalized by the insurance companies who reimburse them, if they prescribe too many brand name drugs over generic drugs. Ask any doctor. There is a pool of “additional” incentive money that many if not most of the insurance companies pay out to doctors who prescribe a majority generic products. No one talks about this with their patients but it’s there. Doctors are less likely today to prescribe a brand name product, even if it has advantages over an older, generic product. The reasons are that the insurance companies track what each doctor prescribes and then use this information to create an incentive plan that serves as a “carrot” for paying those doctors more money if they are compliant in using mostly generics and subsequently withhold it from those doctors if they are not compliant and prescribe too many brands. In addition, the insurance companies have created roadblocks and disincentives in the form of lengthy prior authorization forms, prolonged step therapy requirements, and much higher co-payments for the newer, branded medicines) that many doctors aren’t willing to use their or their staff’s valuable time to jump thru the hoops that are required to get the newer and sometimes better medicine. Yes, I agree, not all of the newer brand name medicines are significantly better. But sometimes they are! And even then patients are made to wait, work through the process and often suffer longer with their disease or get sub optimal results because of these processes and requirements.

  12. Taximom5 says:

    Just substitute “tobacco industry” for “pharmaceutical industry,” and see if it sounds even worse.

    Everyone would be absolutely horrified if we still let the tobacco industry get away with this crap, but even doctors just assume it’s fine and dandy for the pharmaceutical industry to do business this way.

    What we have to remember here, though, is that this level of corruption is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry. IT’S EVERYWHERE. It’s in every industry you can think of, it’s even running rampant in school boards and local government, as well as the federal government.

    This is business as usual.

    • TmrSnap says:

      I agree with you, it is Big Business as usual. The thing that disturbs me, is that it is harming today’s children, even killing them. No amount of money is worth that.

      • Taximom5 says:

        But that’s the whole problem–almost everything in today’s “culture” is harming today’s children. Business as usual.

  13. Sugah says:

    damn. no words.

  14. Wow! This just gets worse and worse. That is also why big Pharma likes former cheerleaders for reps. I have lost three very close family members all because of this industry.

    • Mike Wilson says:

      I am curious to see how long ago your neice was a rep. Things have certainly changed since 2006. There are more regulations regarding the pharmaceutical companies and doctors than any other industry. The sunshine law now requires that doctors report any and all lunches or dinners they attend as income on their taxes.

      Lots of changes since the days of Viagara.

      I am no longer a pharmaceutical rep but seeing it from both sides is an eye opener. Movies and tv make it so bad. The public perception of the pharmaceutical rep now is about 5-10 years what it really is. Meaning reps can’t do or get away with that stuff now. They have to actually educate the doctors on the benefits and risks. The FDA comes down hard if you go off script.

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