PR & Other Drugs by Mike Huckman
“Jamie! On your left. Jamie, over here! On your right.”
Jamie is the infamous (in pharma circles) Jamie Reidy. And he says he felt like “the belle of the ball” when he walked the red carpet among the paparazzi at the LA premiere of “Love & Other Drugs,” the movie that’s loosely based on his industry-rattling memoir “Hard Sell. The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.”
I got to know Jamie more than five years ago, when I interviewed him on CNBC shortly after his groundbreaking tell-all book came out. He later played a prominent role in an investigative piece I did on pharma sales for the now defunct CNBC primetime show “Business Nation.” And outside of work we became frenemies. (He went to Notre Dame, I went to USC. And we’re both fanatics.)
Anyway, now Reidy’s ready for his closeup. Actually, he tells me his tiny role as an extra in L&OD either got cut or goes by in such a flash he’s not even sure he saw himself on screen. He has to wait for the DVD to come out, so he can freezeframe it. If you want to play “Where’s Jamie?” when the movie opens the day before Thanksgiving, he says he’s standing about three people away from Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Jamie in the movie, in a drug launch event scene.
I read the book, but I haven’t seen the movie yet, only the trailers, which focus on the Hollywood-made romance. I was surprised to find out, though, that Pfizer and Viagra and not some fictional drug company and pill names made it into the flick. “He sells Viagra in the movie, but the main point is really the love story,” Reidy told me when I talked to him this week over the phone. But the life of a drug sales rep still figures prominently in the screenplay, which Reidy, by the way, didn’t write. And that could possibly be cause for concern for the industry.
For instance, the now dead practice of fake preceptorships, where a drug rep puts on a white coat, pretending to be an intern while on a sales call and shadows a doc is in there. There’s also a manufactured foil to Gyllenhaal’s Reidy–a rival rep who sells a popular anti-depressant and who’s killin’ it in the field. There’s detailing, training sessions, launches, you name it. On the plus side, Reidy told me the movie “doesn’t do any of the stuff I did in terms of dodging work. That’s not a focus.” He wrote extensively in the book about how few hours he spent on the job, but still made his numbers.
A lot of people in the industry boycotted “Hard Sell” because it exposed what critics might call the old, seedy underbelly of prescription drug sales. But Reidy’s convinced those same people are more likely to buy tickets to see the movie version. He says a friend recently texted him from a drug sales training session: “25 reps r here & all they’re talking about is ur movie.”
Just don’t call L&OD a romantic comedy. Only Hollywood could do this, but Reidy says, “They’re calling it an emotional comedy. It’s really heavier than your popcorn romantic comedy.” So heavy that Reidy claims it reduced his former literary agent to tears. “If you’ve got a grizzled agent crying, then it’s really impactful,” he said.
But if you want a laugh, there is this: When I asked Reidy what it was like to have Jake Gyllenhaal playing him on screen he replied, “It’s just insane. He is slightly (his emphasis) more attractive than me.”