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The pandemic grounded tens of thousands of pharmaceutical reps who usually roam the country urging doctors to prescribe certain drugs — a shift that has opened the door for tech companies, who are pitching digital platforms on the promise that oceans of data can make pharma marketing better.

After in-person sales activity plummeted last March, numbers from consulting firm ZS Associates show that it’s bounced back somewhat in digital form. Today, activity sits at about 35% of pre-Covid levels. Of this activity, 60% is happening virtually — compared to less than 2% of activity before the pandemic.


“In Covid, they kind of had to face up to this reality,” Pratap Khedkar of ZS Associates told STAT. The companies turned to email and Zoom, realizing, as Khedkar put it, that “this is the only way to engage now, I can’t just send in the rep who will watch for the doctor in the hallway.”

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