The deal comes months after Merck announced its intention to reduce its US sales force by 15 per cent, resulting in 1,200 job losses.
By outsourcing a proportion of its sales team Merck believes it is better equipped to respond to shifting trends and market opportunities.
Details about the deal are scarce, with neither company revealing the number of sales staff involved in the deal or what products they will be selling.
However, the sale of vaccines or drugs marketed to oncologists, ophthalmologists, or dermatologists are not included in the deal, according to media reports.
The deal comes less than three months after Pfizer outsourced its oncology sales in China and is unlikely to be the last time big pharma uses contract sales.
Big pharma’s sales teams have been feeling the brunt of cost saving measures, with Schering-Plough cutting 1,000 US staff this week. Merck has also been making further cutbacks, closing 51 of its 71 Japanese sales offices.
With in-house sales teams diminishing companies may increasingly turn to outsourcing to fulfill their needs.
inVentiv hurt by lost contract
Despite the deal with Merck, inVentiv’s share price dropped by 12 per cent as the market responded news that Boehringer Ingelheim is not renewing its sales contract.
inVentiv sought to play down the significance of losing the contract to sell Boehringer’s blood pressure medication Micardis (telmisartan).
Blane Walter, CEO of inVentiv, said: "It is typical for our business to wind down some sales teams while concurrently ramping up others. As a result of the nine new sales teams we are adding in the fourth quarter, we expect the vast majority of the representatives on the Boehringer team will be redeployed by the beginning of 2009.
“These new wins are a testament to the quality of inVentiv's offerings and our strong infrastructure that delivers high quality services to all of our commercial clients."
The “nine new sales teams” that Walter refers to are for recently signed contracts with pharmaceutical companies of various sizes.
inVentiv has said that two of these contracts are with big pharma companies and that five of the deals are with small pharmaceutical businesses.