Research and development investment in pharmaceuticals is such that it is essential for pharmaceutical companies to aim for a substantial and quick return on investment before the patent becomes part of the public domain. Indeed, the pharmaceutical industry is the second largest business sector, after information technology, in terms of investment in research and development. As evidence, in 2014, of the 100 Canadian companies with the highest R&D spending, 20 were pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. In 2014, in Canada, more than 26,000 people were employed in the pharmaceutical products manufacturing industry and the total sales value of pharmaceutical products represented 22 billion dollars (89% from retail pharmacies, 11% from hospitals).
Crucial role of the pharmaceutical representatives
No pharmaceutical company can afford to save on medical reps. They are the key people who present, not sell, the drug to doctors. The pharmaceutical representative, therefore, plays an information role in showing the drug’s efficacy, outlining its advantages, giving details about its composition and specifying its contraindications and side effects. They also play a role as regards pharmacovigilance by gathering adverse effects.
Pharmacists now highly in demand
The pharmaceutical representative mainly meets with doctors and hospital staff, as well as specialists for specific drugs developed by pharma companies for niche markets. The development of generics has led to a new target—pharmacists. Pharmacists, by definition, do not prescribe medication. However, when filling a prescription, they are authorized by law to replace it with a generic or another brand of medication. Competition between drug manufacturers and providers is therefore focused on pharmacists, and price becomes the only purchasing criteria.
Red carpet for the pharmaceutical representative
It is not surprising that this is a very popular field, and rightly so—salaries increase very quickly, schedules are flexible and you get to be your own boss. A medical representative can count on a base salary between $36,000 and $78,000, with the median salary being $59,860. Bonuses vary between $1,014 NS $31,562; commissions between $2,250 and $31,562. So the total salary of a medical representative ranges from $37,355 to $93,193.
How to stand out
Presentation and communication skills are key for the pharmaceutical representative job. Being positive and energetic, knowing how to negotiate, solve problems and develop the business over the long term are valuable aptitudes. Lastly, pharmaceutical representatives must have a great ability to grasp and retain information since they usually represent three main drugs and several secondary ones.
These sought-after aptitudes do not eclipse the importance of degrees and professional experience—ideally a bachelor’s degree in science or biology, even if companies are open to all types of profiles including commerce, finance, etc. Pharmaceutical industry-related professional experience is preferable, but all other successful sales experience is also an asset. Young graduates with little experience can highlight their involvement in sports, cultural and humanitarian associations to give companies an idea of their personality.
Other jobs that contribute to sales development
Pharmaceutical representatives are the key piece of the puzzle. They are supported by regional managers, who head a team of medical representatives, and whose objective is to develop their company’s sales and market share. Sales owes a great deal of its success to the information department. Medical information managers exercise scientific and pharmaceutical authority for the line’s production for internal (training, marketing and sales) and external stakeholders (doctors, pharmacists). Armed with a degree in pharmacy, completed by training in marketing or commerce, medical information managers must have an enquiring mind, and good project management and oral/written communication skills. The marketing department also has a very important role to play in sales development: pharmacoeconomists implement a pricing and reimbursement strategy in line with legislation; the person in charge of marketing studies designs and conducts studies, and guides the sales strategy, which is implemented by the product manager, whose goal is to increase sales while guaranteeing the best return on investment possible within a defined budget.