February 4, 2011

Are All Drug Reps Hot?

cheer-rep.jpgbrought to you by Reaganomics

(This is only peripherally about drug reps.)

Someone was arguing with me about why all drug reps are hot.  I told him they weren't, and I would know.  I've seen a lot of reps, I even used to train them, fly out to their HQs and give them a two hour lecture on the pharmacology of their and the other drugs.

"Then why does everyone say they are?"  He told me that a friend of his in the medical field also noticed they were all hot.  And didn't CNN or some blog say they hire college cheerleaders and sorority girls?

Of course, he isn't asking me because he wants a date.  The point he is making, the point everyone always makes when they bring this up, is that this is a strategic plan of Big Pharma's: hiring eye candy to influence prescribing.

How would that work, exactly?  Pfizer tells HR to screen applicants by cup size?  You know HR is run by women, right?

I shouldn't have to explain that a company can't have an employment strategy that discriminates against a protected class.  Saying that your hiring practices are a necessary part of a marketing strategy does not get you out of this.

There are some jobs where appearance is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ-- see, there's even an acronym for it) and if you have to ask if your job is one of those, it isn't. Elite Modeling can hire based on looks, but Abercrombie & Fitch can't.  I leaave you to tease out the details.

Surprisingly, ugly people are not a protected class, and phew.  But while Pfizer can hire attractive women, it cannot be a hiring strategy.  Could a manager choose the prettiest out of all the candidates and get away with it?  Sure.  But he couldn't hold out for only attractive ones.  So if they did want their salesforce to be all attractive females, it would have to be, in effect, a conspiracy: everyone knowing the deal, and everyone playing along.  Do you know how hard it is to get a conspiracy going in this country?  It's impossible. 

But most people have never met a drug rep.  And people who have seen one in a doctor's office are sure they're hot-- "I saw her!"  But the assumption is wrong, and your eyes are lying to you.  You are all making the same mistake.


When you hear that all drug reps are hot, you can be confident that the person speaking is a middle aged man and/or someone with... limited sexual power.  These people are prone to two errors.  A psychological one: fetishization; and a biological one: mistaking for beauty what is merely youth.

This is supported by the reverse complaint among young male residents, young male reps, and guys who've been around the block: where are all the hot reps?  This company blows.

These women aren't hot, they are polished, hair and nails, new shoes, clothes, time at the gym and plenty of sleep.  (Sigh, that was me-- never.)  What would you expect of a single woman with a lot of disposable income magnified 10x by credit?  If you saw them in a bar you might not even notice them, but in a doctor's office their appearance is jarring, out of place, no one else has such attention to their appearance.  No one else is as young.  No one else walks with such confidence. 


I'm not saying reps aren't trying to influence doctors; I am only saying that the looks aren't part of corporate strategy, and it asinine to the point of insanity to believe that the 25 year old female rep put on an Ann Taylor suit and Nine West pumps to look good for you, so you'll prescribe Zyprexa.

If you found an actual hot rep, and asked her if she thought she looked hot in that suit, she would say, "oh God, in work clothes?"

But it's those clothes, that job, that make her sexy.  Take a 25 year old and put her in a bar, she's a girl.  Put her in the clothes and she's a woman-- so for a 40 year old, there's much less guilt about seeing her as a sex object, because she isn't a sex object, she's a professional.

"Sex for scripts" is not a derivative of prostitution. It is sexy because it is not prostitution.  If it were strictly transactional, it would lose its sex appeal-- no one fantasizes about having sex with prostitutes, they have fantasies of paying for sex, and the fantasy isn't that she does it even though she doesn't want to, the fantasy is that she wants it so much she'll do it for so little.  What makes it sexy is the fantasy that the woman doesn't mind it at all; for her, sex is easy, comfortable, immediate.  She'll have sex with a man simply out of curiosity: "I just wanted to see if he was any good."  

They don't have to have sex with you, of course, but their threshold for doing it is much lower.  The image of a woman offering her sexuality to obtain a non-sexual reward-- in this case scripts, but it's no different from the idea of the woman who blows the bouncer to get into a club, or sleeps with the band's frontman even though she thinks he's kind of weird looking, just for the story-- is comforting.  It offers an explanation for why her sex seems so easy with other men and so out of reach for you: she's doing it for some reason that is not sex.  So you make it porn-- she has the ability to enjoy sex even with people she doesn't actually like-- and now you ladies know why your boyfriend doesn't care a lick about the three years you spent with your ex, but goes all quiet when you bring up a drunken one night stand.  Say this: "he was cute, I guess, but I don't actually remember his name," and strap in for the best sex he can deliver (or a beating.)

If I say "drug rep," you think she's hot.  If I say, "she blew the bouncer to get into the club," again, you think hot.  If I say she's a "nurse" then she's hot.  But if I say she's a surgical nurse, or a nurse practitioner, then she's not hot.  The more specific you get, the older you imagine her to be, and the specifics crowd out the fantasy.

That makes being a drug rep a fetish, in which the job-- not the woman-- is attributed with sexual power that it does not have, but we all act as if it does.  That same girl in a supermarket might be ordinary; but call her a drug rep and give her the uniform, and it's boner time.   That uniform is just as important as her actual appearance.  Uniforms de-humanize (that's the point of them.)  The uniform tells you to think of this person not as an individual but as whatever that uniform represents.  But if that uniform represents sex (as do nursing uniforms, etc) then the woman can't help but being thought of as sex.  So you have to abandon the uniform.


Instead of wondering why Pfizer hires only young women to be reps, you should ask why young people are lured into Pharma.

And why not?  Money is great out of college; it's a purely white collar job, not much experience is necessary.  While it's not a physically taxing job, who else wants to enter a career where they have to work three nights a week until 10p?   I know it's at a restaurant, but these young women you expect to be hot have enough money to go on their own, with people they like, not a 50 something "I was an obstetrician in my country" or a table of know-nothing residents who all think they're going to Vasco da Gama the buried data of the presentation.  

But the hidden danger is that for most of these reps, there is no future in Pharma.  Pharma cut more jobs than any other private sector industry, about 100k since 2009.

Whatever else you might think about reps, they represent the goal of the nation: young, motivated, college educated workers who want to 401k their future, have families, watch the Super Bowls and not get involved with nonsense.  The problem with the nation is that it didn't have any jobs to offer them except Pharma (and similar) jobs.  Those jobs don't exist now, and there aren't any other jobs for them.  It's one thing to say the poor/uneducated can't find work, it's another thing to say the explicitly desired outcome of this country's social and educational system can't find work. The supply is there; but there's no demand.  And there's no demand because there's not enough people who create stuff creating stuff which would justify the other jobs.

When this occurs, a country has two options.  It can support those young people through social services, healthcare, housing and food subsidies, etc-- with steady GDP growth of about 5%; or it can create jobs.  The first one is called Egypt.

Let's stick with the Pharma example, though it applies everywhere.  If Pharma was creating new drugs, it could justify all these jobs.  Now they aren't, so jobs are cut.   Create new drugs and everyone's back in business.  Ok-- but wrong.

They never were creating new drugs, they were only creating new markets.  I realize Zoloft and Lexapro are nominally different drugs, but they are really the same drug, packaged differently: markets were created to sustain both Lexapro and Zoloft; not one market with two products, but a doubling of the market.   In a perfect world, Lexapro wouldn't have been invented, they would have worked on something else.  But since they knew they could create a market for "another Zoloft," they took the easy route.  And they hired a salesforce, accordingly.

While that was good for Lexapro, it's terrible for the country.  Temporarily-- and ten years is temporary-- hiring all these people to essentially duplicate efforts cannibalizes resources from other industries.  All of those reps might have done something else, back when they were young enough to do something else.  You might say it's not for me to judge whether being a rep is more valuable to society than being, say, an engineer.  I agree, that is not my place to judge, the market can do that; but it is the responsibility of the nation's administrators to decide that what they want for their 18 year investment.   And if they want more engineers, entrepreneurs, creators, they have to incentivize that, and de-incentivize other choices.  And if Pharma is offering $60k + benefits, the country's got to come up with something better.

Here's an example: Pharma offers 401k with matching benefits.  The government, if it wants to use stimulus money the right way, could offer college grads who go into jobs the country wants (e.g. engineering) a matching pension.  In 2009, $50B worth of school loans were in default.  If you spent only $10B a year on grants to pay for e.g., engineering, you could get 200k engineers through college.  Etc.  And many people who are already employed would love a way to fund side projects, in essence doubling the output of a single person.

The chief predictor (actually, the only predictor) of suicide is hopelessness.  A person can withstand all manner of attacks and traumas, but if you take away hope all bets are off.  When the hopelessness becomes endemic, it looks like this:



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Except India and China alre... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 11:18 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Except India and China already graduates more engineers of equal or greater skill every year who will work for significantly less. And because trade is so free and multinationals are sp powerful, it's unlikely that the protectionist utopia of skilled workers that hr West used to be is ever coming back.

Its too late for creative destruction, too late to win the future. Our Sputnik moment was a decade and a half ago and was called NAFTA. Look forward to a narcissistic injury on a grand scale.

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"The government, if it want... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 11:28 AM | Posted by Dan Dravot: | Reply

"The government, if it wants to use stimulus money the right way, could offer college grads who go into jobs the country wants..."

Yes, but who decides which jobs the country wants? I'll tell you: The same kind of smart, well-spoken, well-tailored, Ivy-credentialed people who did such a great job running Lehman Brothers and GM. The same ones who were so smart ten years ago, they went around saying we could avoid the hangover from the NASDAQ bubble by having a real estate bubble instead. I doubt they were smart enough to cause the real estate bubble; I suspect we got that bubble whether they wanted it or not. But they sure as hell knew it was "what the country wanted"!

Now they figure we need "green jobs", which means subsidizing the replacement of things we already have -- with stuff that works poorly enough to require subsidies to be "viable". You're not really producing anything, when you spend a ton of money to have something almost as good as what you started with.

And they'll even hire the same quants to help them figure out the details.


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Bypassing the larger points... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 11:46 AM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

Bypassing the larger points you are making entirely: big pharma doesn't hire captivating women by policy, but perhaps many young women are drawn to a job which primarily consists of meeting and interacting with doctors.

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I'm an engineer. Been in t... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 2:34 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

I'm an engineer. Been in the business about 9 years. When I started college, we were in the middle of the tech boom, so everybody talked about the money engineers make, and how great their jobs are. Engineering was the place to be. Then the tech bust hit (I live in a tech city--the tech bust was arguably harder on the city than this recession has been), and all of a sudden it all seemed like a bunch of lies. Finding a job was near impossible. My final semester, in a class with 50 other people graduating with master's degrees in computer engineering, when my classmates found out I had lined up a job, they trounced on me wanting to know if there were other openings. I think there were about 5 of us that had jobs lines up. I have to imagine it's worse now.

My company does layoffs nearly every year (not always in my dept), but only hires every ~5 years in the US in my dept. They hire boatloads of people in India and China. The dreams of big money are laughable--we are paid less than our idiot friends who took easy classes and majored in business or accounting or a dozen other majors. Raises don't even track with cost of living.

So every time I see someone say we need 200k more engineers in this country I shake my head. We *have* lots of talented engineers who can't get work. I have friends who majored in engineering who went back to law school or for their MBAs or even one that went into teaching because there just aren't jobs out there for engineers.

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". . . idiot friends who to... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 3:09 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by Cosmicomics: | Reply

". . . idiot friends who took easy classes . . . "

They don't seem like idiots now! Don't be so mad.

And if you want the "big money" go out on your own, do something entrepreneurial -- because you are really no different than your business major, idiot friend counterparts (except they make more money! AHHH!). You are just another cog in the wheel as are they.

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Such is the cycle of empire... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 3:35 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Such is the cycle of empires. Over-abundance without a sense of gratefulness or understanding of where it came from creates (a) generation(s) of people rotting morally. The rotting starts on the inside, and the last place it shows is in the external world. By then, it will be too late.

American is still alive for some, and those people will pick up the pieces when this giant mess is over.

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You have convinced me throu... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 4:34 PM | Posted by BHE: | Reply

You have convinced me through this and other posts that raising the next generation of Americans to be entrepreneurs (took me four tries to spell that) is the only hope this country has of real & sustained viability. We need to get back to the idea of a country where people want to make it on their own, not just cruise through college with the expectation that there will be a boss around the bend to be a new mommy or daddy.

Every day I read comments on various forums from 20-somethings who are legitimately *shocked* that their college degree is essentially worthless. How long until this shock turns to anger, Egypt-style?

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Only the ones who are worki... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 5:52 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Only the ones who are working...

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A woman has to be stupid if... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 6:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Jim's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

A woman has to be stupid if she thinks she is going to meet and marry a doctor by being a drug rep. That's a great way to end up a used up mistress, however. Doctors don't think "I"m going to marry a drug rep/nurse" they think "I"m going to have an affair/screw a drug rep/nurse".

If you are trying to sell him drugs, odds are he is older and influential and has an established patient client base. This means he is married. End of story. Older married doctors do not, or almost never do, leave their wives to marry a young drug rep or nurse. Why would they, when there are so many stupid bitches willing to have an affair with him because he is a doctor?

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I maintain the problem in t... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 6:44 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I maintain the problem in this country is lack of regulation, a government which pimps out its people to runaway corporate monstrosities. Corporations have all the control and they use and dispose of human beings as they see fit.

We have been told the only way is a global economy, it's really too complex for us simpletons to get it, but for real honest and truly it benefits all of us to globalize the economy. It's good for americans to allow companies to set up shop in countries with abominable standards of living and human rights, where these corporations can pay people bullshit for the same labor.

Americans cant find jobs because companies ARE NOT HIRING AMERICANS.
If you physically produce products, the manufacturing is in some third world shithole hiring people who they can pay pennies, and merely fire when lose a hand during the manufacturing process.
If you produce a skilled service, then immigrants from the third world have immigrated here and are now working for less money, with less benefits, while you sit around with your thumb up your ass holding out for a job where you are treated like a human being. Not likely when hatians will work for nothing and tolerate standards of living which are far below that of americans.

This old man pining away about an enterprising productive spirit absent in todays young people as the cause of the current employment problem... sounds just like an old man pining away, full of utter shit. People in his generation found it easier to find work, because people in his generation didn't have to compete with hatians working for much less in terms of monetary compensation benefits or respect. People in his generation got educated, and competed only against americans, and there were jobs in america then.

There is a reason the media (which is to say, the government/rich/corporate class) has ridiculed and satirized to unspeakability the stereotype of the disgruntled american worker who is weary of immigrants and corporations setting up manufacturing in third world dumpsters. The reason this line of thought has become a joke is because it is infuriatingly correct, and the parasite class depends on us never waking up and figuring that out.

If more people realize it and get angry enough about it, upside down goes society and the privileged position of parasites who have us all on a race to the bottom as amercians are forced to compete against people who don't have government services like clean running water, where babies are thrown out of car windows because they are female, where people can be terminated and not compensated when they lose a hand or a leg at work, where companies can POUR OUT pollutants into the environment with no repercussions... and various other abominations which occur in third world dumpsters, which americans will never know. Corporations love this sort of thing because they can pay these people pennies for work and throw them away when they get hurt or sick or old.

Then back home in america, young people can't find work, and they have to listen to stupid old morons telling them it's because they don't have enough moxy to get out there and set up a shoe shine business.

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Or the TL;DR version:... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 6:56 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Or the TL;DR version:

The problem is our government is behind these corporate douchebags who sell out american people for profit... not the sort of wealth that builds nations, it's the "I get a fancy new jet because I am a bloated corporate scumbag" kind. You know, minus monies for the american worker/taxes, plus monies in the ceo's pocket. Simple math, a baby can do it.

Americans who produce skilled services are shocked to find companies are hiring people from third world shitholes, people who don't expect more than a few bucks and are surprised as how you can turn on the faucet and clean water comes out.

Americans who produce products have been out of work for awhile now, as companies set up shop in china and other dumpsters.

Meanwhile, comfortable old morons making big bank as part of an elaborate and tightly bottlenecked profitable licensing scam spout self righteous bullshit to the 20 somethings out there who have to deal with the results of his generations laziness and apathy. It's his generation, and generation before his, which allowed the government to become so duplicitous and deceitful to the american people, so now his children can't find jobs because they're all in china (or third world immigrants here have taken them all).

I'm sure TLP has a mental immage of himself as some kind of ideological a rebel, but ultimately he says the same safe bullshit everyone does. He's rebellious, but only when it's safe: It's okay to call a woman a whore and a sex object, it's okay to point at a transsexual or a fag, and certain unprotected non-white people as well... but he shivers at the thought of correctly identifying immigrants and outsourcing as the problem destroying our country. That's too radical, years of media and social conditioning have beaten this thought out of him, he knows it's there in his head but he cannot bring himself to acknowledge it. Even if he wanted to, he knows the brainwashed and socially conditioned readers would burn him alive.

To say it out loud relegates you to the fringe, where crazy people live... even though it's desperately true.

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America remains the #1 manu... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 9:11 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

America remains the #1 manufacturing country in the world, producing about 40% more than #2 (China)

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Only the doc can take the s... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 3:12 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

Only the doc can take the subject of "hot drug reps" and turn it into a first class social/economic diatribe. That's why we love him.

Btw, doc, any opinion on this?

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Any opinion on this?<... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 3:13 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

Any opinion on this?


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Assuming your figures are e... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 6:27 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Assuming your figures are even correct, does it even occur to you that the #2 company is only #2 because american companies fired all of their american employees and set up shop in china? Are you fucking retarded to think this is evidence against what I said?

What do you think it means for america when all of a sudden china can almost stand head to head with us in productivity... and it isn't because of chinese ingenuity, it is because american companies simply moved to china?

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About the China-bashing Ano... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 11:49 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

About the China-bashing Anonymous: it's desperating when your status quo is crumbling apart, isn't it?

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hmm why isn't the Best Coun... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 12:05 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

hmm why isn't the Best Country in the World the Best Country Always and forever???? Things changed??????? you mean that we're only Number One by some absurd but still huge margin?? what does it mean for this country when A bunch of obvious shit happens. Lets ban forrrrener goods and save Our American jobs, this strategy works well in japan where we get to pay 777% more money for japanese rice. Or maybe we can keep the cheap goods but have all of our companies collapse because they're competing with companies in other countries where people are paid "pennies"! if only everyone had seen the obvious solution to this terrible problem like you, anonymous poster. tell us, how did you get so well educated and smart?

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Mistaking beauty for what i... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 1:16 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Mistaking beauty for what is simply youth? To torture Keats, Beauty is youth--youth beauty, that is all.

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Some of us *hot* nurses bec... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 5:09 PM | Posted by PMHNP-BC (huh?): | Reply

Some of us *hot* nurses became equally hot nurse practitioners, found ourselves a specialty niche then used our negotiating skills with the managed care companies for fair reimbursement.
Now the *hot* drug reps male and female---and no, the vast majority of them are not hot at all bring me my *hot* lattes and fruit cups on a rotating schedule and don't dare detail me either, I will not be detailed.

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You go, Sistah! Yo... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 5:47 PM | Posted, in reply to PMHNP-BC (huh?)'s comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You go, Sistah!

You keep sockin' it to the Harper Valley PTA, girlfriend! Norma Rae is ringing that bell for you. "Babe is a four-letter word..." And Anita told the truth. Don't be detailed, but please grab extra samples of all ADHD drugs and anti-depressants, as we sure as shit gonna need them.

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Why, thank you very much, I... (Below threshold)

February 5, 2011 6:06 PM | Posted by PMHNP-BC (huh?): | Reply

Why, thank you very much, I do my best. And the Novartis dude wouldn't even make it past my receptionist if they didn't break up their sales force between Focalin XR and Fanapt. :-)