"Our co-promotion agreements have given us the opportunity and expertise needed to create a strong, efficient infrastructure in the United States," says Ed Broughton, senior vice president of business development and new products for Eisai.
Since the launch of Aricept in 1997, Eisai's sales force has grown tenfold. But Broughton says sales-force expansion is just one of many byproducts of a successful partnership. Here, Broughton sits down with Pharm Exec to discuss how Eisai thinks about new business opportunities, and what types of partnerships are up next for the growing company.Pharm Exec: How did the co-promotion deal with Pfizer change the company?
Broughton: When we partnered with Pfizer to co-promote Aricept, Eisai did not have a sales force or a big US infrastructure. We knew that we also needed to implement significant promotional and educational efforts geared to primary care physicians, since they tend to treat most Alzheimer's patients. We did not have the resources to do that, but a Big Pharma company like Pfizer did. It knew how to manufacture, distribute, and market this product.
However, we discovered Aricept, which allowed us to structure the deal flexibly, giving us the potential to add capabilities as Aricept grew. Pfizer provided us with a tremendous amount of sales and marketing assistance, which has enabled us to grow our capabilities, start our own manufacturing and distribution, and contribute our expertise to the promotion of Aricept.
Does Eisai prefer to develop compounds in-house or to in-license them?
It's good to be able to do both. We discovered and developed two of our products—Aricept and Aciphex—in-house, but we have also in-licensed or acquired several products and compounds.
While a lot of Big Pharma companies tend to focus their licensing activities on obtaining primary care products, we target specialty areas, where the need for large sales forces is not as acute. We can compete against any company in terms of sourcing and launching these products. For example, by in-licensing Zonegran (zonisamide), a product from Elan that treats epilepsy, we were able to expand our specialty sales force as well as our focus on neurology products.
Now, our research efforts in the oncology arena are coming to fruition after years of research and development with compounds now entering Phase II and III for breast cancer, soft-tissue sarcoma, prostate cancer, and others.
Does having successful co-promotions with Pfizer and Janssen influence your willingness to partner again?
We explore partnerships all of the time, but we do so carefully. We first look to our internal pipeline to determine which products may benefit from a partnership either in research or commercially. For example, we will likely promote E2007 for Parkinson's disease and our late-stage compounds for severe sepsis and oncology on our own, but there may be a need for us to partner on broader indications for those compounds or others. But if we have drugs with large primary care potential, we're open to partnering with large companies that can help bring the benefits of our products to the maximum number of patients.