Shocking Strategies Big Pharma Uses to Manipulate Information and Increase Sales

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Interviewer: Gwen, you talked about working fora number of different pharmaceutical companies; were they similar in the ways that they told you about the medications in their approach to getting the doctor to finally write the prescription?  Were they all pretty similar in their strategies?

Gwen Olsen: Absolutely. I think probably Merck is the role model of the industry, that everyone follows their training protocols and procedures because they were so highly successful. 

And what it really entails is when you start out as a pharmaceutical rep., they take you into the home office, into a fish bowl environment, where they do this extensive training where you get product knowledge and you are filmed on tape giving presentations. They do what are called knee-to-knee and toe-to-toe lineups where one line of reps will play the doctor and the opposing line of reps will play the pharmaceutical rep. And then they have these interchanges and they give one another a list of objections;okay, you play the doctor and you object to all these things and you're going to come back as the pharmaceutical rep. so that you practice the verbatim and all of us are going out and saying the exact same things, but it sounds natural and unrehearsed. And that's what's done in the training environment.  

So, you're getting the company's spin on everything. You're not in the library, you're not reading journals, you're not doing anything like that. You're just getting all of the marketing information and then they weed out the weak ones because if you can't handle doctors' egos and you can't be barked at, then you're not going to make it as a pharmaceutical rep. So, they make it as high pressure as they possibly can,they try to break people so they can weed out all of the guys that aren't going to cut it. And it's a very high stress environment. 

So, when you come out of this whole thing, it's kind of like boot camp. You feel like oh, I'm the best thing since sliced cheese because now I'm going to help people and I'm going to heal people and all this kind of stuff and it's really just a false bravado, a psychological conditioning that you've been given. It's a brainwashing process.

Interviewer: And the information that you're then going to pass along is basically, like you said, it came from the marketing department. 

Gwen Olsen: Absolutely it came from the marketing department.

Interviewer: So, if there are things they don't want people to know, they're not going to pass that on to you and, in turn, you're not going to pass that on to the doctor.

Gwen Olsen: In fact, one of the biggest ploys that they do to pass on liability to the reps so that the company doesn't have the liability is they will give you, for example, some study that comes out that shows that a drug that isn't approved for a particular indication worked for this particular indication, here's this study, and it's going to have a stamp on it that says "for reps only". But, they're going to hand it to you knowing full well that we're chomping at the bit for new information togo out and talk to these doctors that you see every three or four weeks. And so they know that you're going to take that information and you're going to go and you're going to talk to doctors about it even though it says "for reps only" because if they don't want you to talk about something, you don't know about it because I found that out when I did my due diligence about some of the drugs and things that I had sold. I was like well, they never told me that and they never told me this and why didn't I know that?

Interviewer: Yeah.



Gwen Olsen is a former pharmaceutical sales representative. She worked for a number of different companies in her career. In this video, she talks about those companies' strategies for selling and how they manipulate information that gets passed on to doctors.

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