The New York Times is reporting on the prepoderance of beautiful people in pharmy sales. Even if it’s all true, it seems like a strange, but revealing, topic.
Anyone who has seen the parade of sales representatives through a doctor’s waiting room has probably noticed that they are frequently female and invariably good looking. Less recognized is the fact that a good many are recruited from the cheerleading ranks.
Known for their athleticism, postage-stamp skirts and persuasive enthusiasm, cheerleaders have many qualities the drug industry looks for in its sales force. Some keep their pompoms active, like Onya, a sculptured former college cheerleader. On Sundays she works the sidelines for the Washington Redskins. But weekdays find her urging gynecologists to prescribe a treatment for vaginal yeast infection.
Some industry critics view wholesomely sexy drug representatives as a variation on the seductive inducements like dinners, golf outings and speaking fees that pharmaceutical companies have dangled to sway doctors to their brands.
“There’s a saying that you’ll never meet an ugly drug rep,” said Dr. Thomas Carli of the University of Michigan. He led efforts to limit access to the representatives who once trolled hospital hallways. But Dr. Carli, who notes that even male drug representatives are athletic and handsome.
But pharmaceutical companies deny that sex appeal has any bearing on hiring. “Obviously, people hired for the work have to be extroverts, a good conversationalist, a pleasant person to talk to; but that has nothing to do with looks, it’s the personality,” said Lamberto Andreotti, the president of worldwide pharmaceuticals for Bristol-Myers Squibb.