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Business and Markets

Pfizer’s Sizing

I’ve been remiss in not commenting on Pfizer’s reduction of its sales force. (Back almost two years ago I speculated on why they might (or might not) do such a thing).
The first thing to keep in mind is that even with these layoffs, Pfizer’s sales organization still looks like the crowd scene from “Gandhi”. They’re not giving up their position as a marketing monster – rather, it looks like they’ve just decided that they could be a somewhat more effective marketing monster if they didn’t have their sales reps scraping each other’s fenders in physicians’ parking lots.
But I have to cheer on any drug company decision that doesn’t just involve Getting More Humongous. I’ve thought for a long time that the Humungous strategy (though initially attractive) has its limits, and that these limits are necessarily hard to discern while you’re crossing them. Sales forces scale a lot better than research productivity, but you can go too far even there. Perhaps now we can put a number on it.
Pfizer’s going to be an interesting place over the next couple of years. They were out beating the drum for their late-stage pipeline, but the part of it that everyone’s watching is torcetrapib, their HDL-elevating compound that they’re hoping to sell mostly) in combination with Lipitor. A mighty bolus of clinical data on that combination is coming next spring, and it had better look good. There have been concerns about effects on blood pressure, and no one’s going to happy until those are quantified better.
The company’s talking about all sorts of restructuring plans, but these will surely be adjusted (for better or worse) based on the torcetrapib situation. For purely selfish reasons, I hope that they don’t feel the need to release any research staff any time soon. . .

11 comments on “Pfizer’s Sizing”

  1. burt says:

    From talking to former colleagues at ACS SF, it sounds like an increasingly nasty place for researchers. Sadly.

  2. beef, M.D. says:

    Oh, thank god. Being in a specialty with big $$$ drugs the reps have been getting worse and worse. Some day I fully expect to get in my car to leave and find a Lilly rep crouching in my back seat.
    What I find most annoying from a professional standpoint is the AMA’s whoredom to the industry by selling the DEA #s they use to link up our prescribing habits to tell us we’re the only ones in the area not riding the Zithromax train. Appalling, especially considering they do nothing of value with all that money.

  3. daen says:

    “For purely selfish reasons, I hope that they don’t feel the need to release any research staff any time soon…”
    Is there something you ought to be telling us, Derek? 🙂

  4. Derek Lowe says:

    Oh, that’s just a general hope that the NE US pharma-biotech complex has time to soak up me and my co-workers before any other effluxes hit. . .

  5. NJBiologist says:

    You mean an efflux like all those BMS people eager to jump before they get pushed? I understand the worry (having been in a similar situation two years ago), but it’s something even Epictetus would say he didn’t control. Besides, you’ve got an understanding of biology that would make you a excellent candidate among any batch of chemists I’ve ever met.

  6. anon says:

    My colleagues and I are very grateful to BMS for opening a considerable number of positions in CT after the layoff announcement was made.
    One of the smaller biotechs was using as a selling point that they are getting to be just as stable as big pharma. I know of three other young (30-35ish) associates for whom this is their second layoff experience under similar circumstances. Unfortunately, it just seems to be the reality these days.
    And, yes, being in the same situation I have to agree with Derek in wishing that our group will be settled before the next round of layoffs somewhere else. If I counted correctly, we have approximately 45 associate level and about 16 PhD level (lab head) medicinal chemists who are currently on the market.

  7. Jon H says:

    Instead of hiring salespeople, they could hire much-cheaper contract drivers. A convoy, led by a sales rep, would pull into a dr’s office parking lot, and the contract drivers would grab every available space, thus blocking the competition’s sales reps.

  8. Brutal Monday says:

    Monday is going to be a little brutal. Torcetrapib has been killed. Ouch. Sold 1750 PFE shares several months ago, but still hold 2500.

  9. Jake says:

    BM beat me to it. But yeah, I don’t imagine that by “had better look good” Derek meant “development cancelled”, although I suppose Merck would have come out ahead had the same thing happened to Vioxx. No real-time quotes yet… do we hear $20?

  10. Petros says:

    Just seeen the torcetrapib news
    Bit embarassings icne Thursday’s analys presention by Pfizer said
    “Torcetrapib/Atorvastatin and CETP Inhibition:
    The Most Important New Development in
    Cardiovascular Medicine in Years
    We Are First-In-Class and Best-In-Class”

  11. Srikanth Reddy says:

    Sorry about your job loss. You should have no problems finding a job. Many pharma recruiters have came to my school in India and said there is a shortage of qualified organic chemists in the USA. See New Scientist (sept 9, 2006, page 54). I am visiting a friend at college here and I love USA! Three friends recieve Phd in India technical school (no hoods! Just Fans!) and they are starting in a few weeks. I have already been offered but not yet taken a position a big Northeastern company. So many of my friends want to come here! Next year the H1B visas will be double by democrats. Also the immigration bill will give greencards to all students studying in USA! Sounds like a serious shortage.
    Good Luck!

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