Current State of the Pharmaceutical Industry

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With several announcements of layoffs taking place within big pharmaceutical companies recently, I thought it would be wise to update you on the state of the pharmaceutical industry today. While there were only 20,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives working in the United States in 1970, that number has jumped to an estimated 100,000 today. Though the number of working representatives has doubled in the past five years, the size of the workforce now appears to be stabilizing. In my opinion, it's about time big pharma scaled down their operations. In the early '80s and '90s, it was an arms race to see who could build the biggest sales force to canvas the doctors offices and hospitals. Today, it's all about lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, e-details, and who can build the most tactical sales force.

For those of you considering a career in pharmaceutical sales, rest assured, there is still a lot of opportunity and a strong future for pharmaceutical sales representatives. According to IMS Health's 2008 Global Pharmaceutical Market and Therapy Forecast released on November 1st, global pharmaceutical sales are predicted to expand to between 735 and 745 billion dollars next year, which is up from $582 billion in 2006. In addition, investments in research and development continue to grow. In 2006, $55 billion was spent on R&D, an 8% increase over 2005. Expect that number to be much larger for 2007.

Has it become more difficult to obtain a position in pharmaceutical sales? Absolutely. With the tightening of the job market, fewer jobs available, and an increase in applications for pharmaceutical sales positions, it boils down to supply and demand. Simply put, there are not enough pharmaceutical jobs to go around, so it's important to do the little extra steps to make yourself stand out from the competition.

About the Author

Tom Ruff is the president and CEO of Tom Ruff Company and the author of How to Break Into Pharmaceutical Sales: A Headhunter's Strategy. Tom Ruff Company is the preferred recruiter for more than 100 of the nation's top pharmaceutical companies, including Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.

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