Sell it, girls!

Everyone loves to buy drugs from cheerleaders!

Published November 28, 2005 6:01PM (EST)

I hope everyone's checked out today's New York Times story about how many cheerleaders are making it big selling prescription drugs! Yes, the pharmaceutical industry loves these peppy saleswomen.

"Known for their athleticism, postage-stamp skirts and persuasive enthusiasm, cheerleaders have many qualities the drug industry looks for in its sales force."

It makes perfect sense. Because I know, speaking personally, that there is no one I would want to purchase medication from more than a woman who in her youth had been capable of performing difficult gymnastics while shouting spirited slogans.

A University of Kentucky cheerleading advisor explains that pharmaceutical companies call him regularly to find out which of his charges is graduating, but don't "ask what the major is." What these companies are looking for, he tells the Times, are the "exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, [and] exaggerated enthusiasm" that cheerleaders learn in training, and that help them "get people to do what they want." Faking enjoyment to get power. Huh.

Particularly awesome is the observation that the pep-squad to Prevacid-sales pipeline is a response to new policing of pharmaceutical companies' tendency to offer pricey dinners, high speaking fees and fancy golf trips as incentives to buy their products.

Now that some of these habits are becoming legal no-nos, it's back to basics. And that means: pretty ladies! Or, as the Times so poetically puts it, "who better than cheerleaders to sway the hearts of the nation's doctors, still mostly men."

Naturally, the Times article includes not-so-shocking news of cases in which these mostly male doctors mistake the drug sales pitches for invitations for more and make unwanted advances. One 30-year-old cheerleader turned drug rep told the paper that while she knows some doctors who behave this way, "they'll get called on by representatives who can handle that kind of talk, ones that can tolerate it and don't think anything about it."

Maybe they should think about it! The Times also reports that accusations have been made against drug company Novartis for allegedly encouraging one of its saleswomen to exploit a relationship with a doctor to build sales in Montgomery, Ala. Novartis has denied the allegations in court papers.

Could there be a connection between pushing women to use exaggerated smiles, motions and enthusiasm to sell products and pushing them to get it on with the people they're selling to? Surely not!

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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