Fierce Pharma reported on May 17 that AstraZeneca is cutting back employment of contract sales reps, obtained primarily through Publicis Touchpoint’s service; sources told the online news service that as many as 1,600 reps would be dropped this summer for a variety of brands, including AZ’s diabetes franchise (Onglyza, Byetta and other drugs), and some contract clinical educators. The company’s loss of exclusivity for Crestor (rosuvastatin) is probably a factor as well; FDA approved a generic version from Actavis Pharma in late April. Crestor generated some $5 billion in sales for the company in 2015.
Contract sales, like on-staff pharma reps, has been on something of an upswing in the past couple years, having bottomed out around 63,000 during the “patent cliff” era in 2010-2014. While there’s been some consolidation—Publicis Touchpoint acquired the contract sales business formerly known as PDI last fall—but there are signs of expansion, too. A new contract sales company, Spectra Biopharma, started up at the beginning of the year.