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Key Finding

Four companies move to decouple antibiotic sales volumes from sales agents’ bonuses

The more antibiotics that are sold, the more that are available, and this is thought to contribute to the prob­lem of overuse. The Benchmark has found that four companies are changing the way they remunerate sales staff in ways that should remove the incentive to oversell antibiotics: GSK, Shionogi, Pfizer and Novartis report that they have either fully decoupled bonuses or have taken steps towards adjusting incentives for its sales teams from the volume of antibiotics they sell.

The more that antibiotics are used, the faster they become ineffective. One of the strategic pillars of the global effort to address antimicrobial resistance is therefore to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately, only when needed, to prolong their effectiveness. Companies whose business models rely on making a high volume of sales can sometimes promote the misuse and overuse of antibiotics through their marketing practices. For example, rewarding sales staff for achieving high sales volumes works against conservation efforts designed to ensure antibiotics are used only when appropriate.

Figure 15. Decoupling sales volumes from sales agents’ bonuses: four companies are taking action

GSK, Novartis, Pfizer and Shionogi report that bonuses are fully decoupled or that the company has taken steps towards adjusting incentives for its sales teams’ bonuses from the volume of antibiotics they sell.

GSK has led in this area, having since 2013 separated pay from antibiot­ics sales volume for all its sales staff in every country in which it sells antibiotics. Shionogi also reports that it does not remunerate its sales teams based on antibiotic sales volume. Pfizer and Novartis are now following. In 2018, Pfizer will start working on pilots that aim to decouple the remuneration of its sales teams from sales volume. Novartis is starting to increase the weight of fixed pay in overall compensation for sales staff, while reducing the variable component.

At least one other company is taking a different approach at the product level. Johnson & Johnson’s new anti-tuberculosis drug, bedaquiline (Sirturo®), is provided solely through national tuberculosis programmes and therefore does not require any marketing materials. The company reports that it does not deploy any sales organisations for the sale of Sirturo® in countries in scope.

For a full list of references, please see the 2018 AMR Benchmark report.

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