Big Pharma's new PR strategy
November 29, 2005
If at first you don't succeed with a pulp fiction novel, try, try, try again with cheerleaders:
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.
But now that federal crackdowns and the industry's self-policing have curtailed those gifts, simple one-on-one human rapport, with all its potentially uncomfortable consequences, has become more important. And in a crowded field of 90,000 drug representatives, where individual clients wield vast prescription-writing influence over patients' medication, who better than cheerleaders to sway the hearts of the nation's doctors, still mostly men. [LINK thanks to Evan]According to the Times, "Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm" are all it takes to get your doctor "to do what they want" -- and give you that Vioxx-induced heart attack. Gimme an R, I, and P.