The company has also taken the unique step of releasing an authorized generic along with the branded drug. Eurand Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Michael Walters talked with Pharm Exec about the thought process behind this novel strategy.
Pharm Exec: Was your first mode of attack to educate the physicians and the specialists about this drug?Michael Walters: Awareness was certainly higher for cystic fibrosis; but it was very low within the gastrointestinal (GI) market segment. The GI market segment is built of gastroenterologists and primary care physicians. Those are the physicians treating EPI due to other conditions.
We made conscious decisions to deploy two dedicated sales forces to physicians: One into cystic fibrosis, and one into the general GI market. There were already people within Eurand with both expertise in the cystic fibrosis area. So for the launch of Zenpep, we expanded that number from about six to 16 field reps.
In the case of the GI market segment, so that we could really link approval and launch, we leveraged the experience of Innovex to recruit, to train, and deploy 49 people into the GI market segment.
With these two segments, it's essentially launching different products, because the ways in which physicians use these drugs—and the ways they perceive the drugs—are very different in cystic fibrosis versus GI.
If you look at the GI market segment, for example, what we saw were two discrete "buckets" of business. One was a group of prescribers who were clearly promotion-sensitive. The others were more price-sensitive—these were the doctors who prescribed less often.
Now, if you looked at the number of doctors you'd have to touch, we were seeing about 33,000 as the market. So one of the things we asked as we looked at this segment was, "How do we begin to develop specific tactics and tools that will support the sales representatives in this more promotion-sensitive element? And how do we do the same through non-personal promotion in this more price-sensitive area?"
PE: And what was the answer?
MW: When Zenpep was approved, one of the tactics we used was to come out with an authorized generic—but only for the low-dosage strength. An authorized generic is not new, but it tends to be an end-of–life cycle tool. As we launched Zenpep, we saw we had a product that had very high share among lower decile doctors and, with these doctors, very high usage with our low-dosage strength. So with this strategy, physicians could essentially move from one low-price product to another, and we could rely on some of the same non-personal drivers to flip this business.
Generics are positioned differently in the marketplace with respect to copays; therefore, you really can provide a solution to patients by providing a low-cost product with a low copay burden, and cause little disruption as you move your old business to your new FDA-approved product. But again, we did that for one strength only.
PE: Was there any worry about the other strengths?
MW: No. One of the things that came out of research is that patients are very focused on pill burden. And the doctors who are more promotion-sensitive tended to write the higher dosage strengths. So we weren't concerned about cannibalizing the high strengths with the lower strength.
PE: Eurand won't have a direct-to-patient campaign, but will you jump into the online fray?