BMS ups DTC to fend off generic Plavix

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Bristol-Myers Squibb said it plans to expand DTC advertising for Plavix as it seeks to mitigate the impact of the recent generic clopidigrel launch.

Lamberto Andreotti, EVP and president, worldwide pharmaceuticals, said BMS is putting more emphasis on consumer promotion in the US as a way to prop up prescriptions of Plavix, whose growth took a hit when Canadian firm Apotex launched a generic version “at risk”—while a patent case is pending.

“We decided to continue to focus on Plavix full steam,” Andreotti said at the Merrill Lynch Global Pharmaceutical, Biotech & Medtech Conference. 

He attributed “major expenditures” in the US behind DTC advertising as helping Plavix prescription growth reach 14% in the second quarter. Other factors included a new indication approved by the FDA and in Europe, he said. 

Beyond the patent case, BMS is worried about the effect of generic clopidigrel in the marketplace. While a federal court temporarily enjoined Apotex from selling the drug, it stopped short of ordering a recall. During the five days it had market exclusivity, Apotex may have stuffed channels with as much as seven months worth of the version, reports say. Uncertainty about the extent of availability led BMS to  lower its 2006 earnings guidance.

BMS sought to maintain branded sales by negotiating rebates with managed care plans, but Andreotti said not many MCOs accepted  its offers. 

In response to a question about whether the firm would consider raising prices to recoup losses, he said, “We are looking at price increases…but it won't be in reaction to the generic launch.”

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