NitroMed axes BiDil salesforce

NitroMed has fired the 120-member sales force behind its BiDil congestive heart failure drug for African Americans. The move comes as the company shifts its marketing focus to developing an extended release version of the drug. NitroMed CEO Jerry Karabelas said during a conference call with investors and analysts that the BiDil sales force will be replaced with a small group of “elite” marketing specialists who will target experts in heart disease. The move represents a turnaround by Nitromed, which hired 190 marketers on a contract basis to support BiDil at its July 2005 launch. When that plan proved to be ineffective, the drugmaker hired an in-house sales force. According to Karabelas, the dismissal of the sales force will save NitroMed $30 million a year in operating expenses and allow the company to devote more resources to the development of BiDil XR, a once-a-month version of the pill. The current version of the pill must be taken three times a day. NitroMed said preclinical trial results on the extended release version have been positive and said human studies are scheduled to begin in a month.