Schwarz Pharma is preparing to launch its newly approved skin patch for Parkinson's disease with an educational push that will introduce physicians and patients to this first-in-class product.
Although Neupro (rotigotine) works in the same way as oral treatments that supply the brain chemical dopamine, it has the advantage of once-daily administration. It is approved for patients with early-stage Parkinson's, and will be marketed as a first-line monotherapy.
Michael Davis, Schwarz' CNS group product director, said that the company is trying to avoid the word "convenience"--the selling point of many patch reformulations--when describing Neupro's benefits. It's not just about "convenience," but the continuous, steady delivery of the drug, he noted. "The patients won't have the peaks and troughs [that are common] on their current medication," he said. The patch might also benefit patients who have trouble swallowing because of the condition.The company will begin stocking the drug--which was approved May 9--by the end of June, and plans to start detailing neurologists and appropriate primary-care doctors by mid-July, according to Davis.
Schwarz also plans to distribute waiting-room patient-education material including unbranded information about how to best manage Parkinson's disease, such as speech therapy and diet and exercise tips. The company is also working with patient groups like the National Parkinson Foundation. "The main focus is really working with advocacy groups," Davis said.
The company will continue to host its parkinsons-disease.com site, which is unbranded.
Neupro represents the first new chemical entity that German-based Schwarz is launching in the United States. The company, which is being acquired by UCB, will eventually work with its new parent firm to promote the product.
Schwarz is already a player in the US Parkinson's market; its combo drug Parcopa (carbidopa-levodopa), a tablet that dissolves in the mouth, brought in $8.2 million last year, according to the company's annual report. Yet Neupro is set to strengthen that position; in the nine months since its launch in 14 European countries, the patch has already brought in $9.7 million.
The company is also testing Neupro in combination with levodopa for advanced Parkinson's, and is also hoping to expand its label as a treatment for restless legs syndrome. It also has a nasal spray in phase II trials that could be used as a "rescue" treatment for patients who need quick symptom relief.
The worldwide market for Parkinson's drugs is valued at $2.9 billion, and the aging population is driving growth of about 8 percent each year, the company reported, citing figures from IMS Health.
Transdermal patches in particular have gotten attention from drug makers because it makes compliance easier for patients, according to an analysis from Greystone Associates, a medical and healthcare technology consulting firm. Advances in synthetic materials have also made patches a viable strategy for extending patent life.