BMS set to expand Plavix DTC program

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, BMS EVP and president, worldwide pharmaceuticals, said the company is putting more emphasis on consumer promotion in the US as a way to prop up prescriptions of branded Plavix, whose growth took a hit last month 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 this week. “Our sales forces are there. We continue direct to consumer.” He attributed “major expenditures” in the US behind DTC advertising as helping Plavix prescription growth reach 14% in the second quarter. Other factors included efforts to improve Plavix use in hospitals and a new indication approved by the FDA and in Europe, he said. Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare handles the Plavix account, with professional work by Torre Lazur McCann. Beyond the patent case, slated for next January, BMS is worried about the effect of generic clopidigrel in the marketplace. While a federal court temporarily enjoined Apotex from selling clopidigrel, it stopped short of ordering a recall of shipped product. During the three weeks it shipped copies, Apotex may have stuffed channels with as much as seven months’ worth, reports say. Uncertainty about the extent of generic availability led BMS to assume a full impact of clopidigrel supply when it lowered its 2006 earnings guidance after the launch. “We believe that the best way of getting rid of all that generic quantity is to have the prescriptions growing fast,” Andreotti said. BMS sought to maintain branded sales by negotiating rebates with managed care plans, but Andreotti said not many MCOs accepted its offers to cut such deals. He said the firm has given rebates to “select” MCOs and to Medicaid, “but the price has not changed.” In response to a question about whether the firm would consider raising price aggressively to recoup losses, he said, “We are looking at price increases for Plavix and all the other products next year, but it won’t be in reaction to the generic launch.” BMS, which lost blockbuster cholesterol drug Pravachol to generic competition this year as well, is struggling to return to growth. The board of directors fired Peter Dolan this month, replacing him with interim CEO James Cornelius while a permanent successor is found.