Business

On the Job

Getting drug sales representatives ready for their house calls

Shaun McMahon founded Illuminate, a Boston-based company that designs training materials for pharmaceutical sales reps when a new product is launched, after working as a sales representative himself.

Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Shaun McMahon founded Illuminate, a Boston-based company that designs training materials for pharmaceutical sales reps when a new product is launched, after working as a sales representative himself.

It’s a practice called “detailing” — when drug manufacturer sales representatives visit doctors and other clinicians to peddle new medications. But these traditional face-to-face visits are under pressure as many health care providers reject sales calls. Many pharmaceutical companies outsource the training of sales reps to companies like Illuminate Inc. of Boston, founded by Shaun McMahon, a former sales rep. McMahon spoke about his role in helping pharmaceutical companies get drug reps into the field.

“I was a pharmaceutical sales rep for asthma and allergy products two decades ago. Today, at Illuminate, we work with marketing departments of life sciences companies to create interactive learning systems that keep sales reps engaged and give them the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned. All material for pharma reps goes through heavy scrutiny, with a promotional committee — composed of regulatory, medical, and legal representatives — reviewing it to make sure it is appropriate and within the scope of the product label.

“All the script is annotated and referenced to medical articles or journals. When I was in sales, there was more latitude for reps to talk about the competition, but today you can’t make the competitive claim that a drug is more efficacious unless there is an actual head study that proves this [is] true. The increasing speed in which companies work to bring drugs to market means our timelines are shortened.

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“We play a crucial but little-known role in the $1 billion pharma marketing business.”

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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