Saul, Gimme an Rx!, NYTimes, Nov. 2005.
“Gimme an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales.”
By STEPHANIE SAUL
As an ambitious college student, Cassie Napier had all the right moves - flips, tumbles, an ever-
flashing America's sweetheart smile - to prepare for her job after graduation. She became a drug
Ms. Napier, 26, was a star cheerleader on the national-champion University of Kentucky squad,
which has been a springboard for many careers in pharmaceutical sales. She now plies doctors'
offices selling the antacid Prevacid for TAP Pharmaceutical Products.
Ms. Napier says the skills she honed performing for thousands of fans helped land her job. "I
would think, essentially, that cheerleaders make good sales people," she said.
Anyone who has seen the parade of sales representatives through a doctor's waiting room has
probably noticed that they are frequently female and invariably good looking. Less recognized is
the fact that a good many are recruited from the cheerleading ranks.
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.
"There's a saying that you'll never meet an ugly drug rep," said Dr. Thomas Carli of the
University of Michigan. He led efforts to limit access to the representatives who once trolled