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December 1, 2006
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. . .
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