Dendreon expands DTC to boost Provenge

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Dendreon is expanding its DTC campaign, an analyst says, as the firm sees slack demand for its Provenge prostate cancer vaccine and a nascent threat from Johnson & Johnson's Zytiga.

The company plans to extend consumer marketing into new regions, noted Collins Stewart analyst Salveen Richter in an investor note after meeting with management last week.

The expansion follows a revised marketing strategy the firm undertook in July that also included adding sales reps with urology experience to ensure urologists understand the vaccine's four-month survival benefit and are educated on reimbursement/infusions. Most of Dendreon's reps now have oncology experience.

Sales have been disappointing. The drug was approved early last year. In August Dendreon withdrew its sales forecast because it was taking longer than expected for doctors to adjust to the buy-and-bill scheme for Provenge, which costs $93,000 per treatment. Doctors must front the cost before being reimbursed.

J&J's Zytiga, a pill approved in August for advanced prostate cancer patients who have not  benefited from chemotherapy, is giving Provenge  “limited competition,” Richter noted. Zytiga also prolonged life by about four months in clinical trials.

Citing Provenge's sales figures and  unease over up-front costs, Richter says the company's marketing efforts could lead to annual sales of just $500 million—far below earlier expectations for the treatment.
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