Worldwide pharmaceutical sales force levels in 2011 fell just 1.8%, boosted by new opportunities in China, but the decline in the number of reps in the USA and Japan are more pronounced.

A report from market researchers at Cegedim Strategic Data notes that the increase in sales force levels in emerging markets "seems to have tempered the overall decline". There were 413,565 reps in 2011 compared to 421,223 in 2010.

The USA remained the leading country (73,762 reps), followed by China (65,827 reps) and Japan in third place (54,236 reps). However the US figure represents a 7% decrease compared to the previous year, while Japan showed a marked 10% drop in sales force levels in 2011.

In contrast to these mature markets, China continued to show double-digit growth with an increase of 18.6%, In Brazil, sales force levels have increased by 3.5%, putting the country in fifth position worldwide.

As for the top five European markets, Spain and the UK remained relatively stable, although Italy and Germany showed declines of 1.7% and 2%, respectively. The number of reps in France fell 12%.