Brazilian Drug Firms on Sales Force Recruitment Drive
At a time when calls are growing for global drug firms to reduce spending on their sales forces, and the industry's marketing practices have attracted reproach from official sources, including the UK parliament, both domestic and multinational drugmakers present in Brazil are on a recruitment drive for sales professionals.
Much of the recent increase in sales staff has been driven by stellar growth in the country's US$9.2bn drug market, as the country recovers from a period of economic uncertainty and recession. Leading domestic drugmaker Biosintetica claims that revenue has increased by 30% annually over the last two years, and a further 70 staff are now required to support the launch of 12 new products since 2003. Fellow Brazilian firm Eurofarma has doubled its sales force since 2000, and hopes to have approximately 930 marketing executives by October. The company spends some BRL1.5mn (US$0.57mn) on staff training each year.
However, local firms' sales staff training periods of roughly 10 days, not to mention their financial resources, are dwarfed by those of the multinational sector. US drug major Merck & Co already has 380 sales professionals in Brazil, and is offering distance learning courses amid this year's projected spending increase and plans to launch a substitute for Vioxx, which was withdrawn in Brazil late last year.
Notably, the expansion in the drug sector's sales force comes despite stringent controls on the promotion of prescription drugs in Brazil. Advertising is generally restricted to health industry publications targeted at medical professionals. Although companies may contact doctors with such information as known adverse drug reactions, regulation of the sector is not fully liberalised as in the US. Monitoring of drug advertising is carried out by local universities in partnership with the country's drug regulator, Anvisa.
Nevertheless, as Brazilian pharmacies do not always require a prescription to dispense drugs, and the local sector's R&D spending remains low, the expansion of sales forces is likely to become a key sales driver in the country as economic conditions continue to improve.