Dendreon lowers expectations, touts DTC effort

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Biotech Dendreon posted narrower second-quarter losses, logging a $69-million revenue shortfall for the quarter ended June 30, compared to $96 million for the same period last year. The net loss mirrored a dip in overall sales, which were $73 million for the quarter, compared to $80 million for the same period last year. As for a possible turnaround, management said the firm will not hit its year-over-year sales target.

Yet CEO John Johnson remains optimistic, because of 42 new accounts added in the quarter and because of increased consumer interest since initiation of a television DTC campaign March 7 for prostate cancer drug Provenge. The company said the TV ad serves a dual purpose: in addition to triggering calls into its phone centers, the spot also has unique dial-in numbers, helping the firm identify which channels are bringing in traffic.

 

The company could not share the patient conversion rates from caller to user, but management told investors during the August 8 earnings call that consumers need to see the ad about seven times before they are ready to dial in.

Johnson said the company's marketing efforts for Provenge have run into a few hurdles, with a key one being patients' lack of familiarity with immunotherapy. Marketing and awareness efforts are designed to explain the approach.

Dendreon is also looking to get a foothold in the pre-chemo space, so it can be used earlier in the treatment roster, and is considering sequencing studies with other prostate therapies, such as with the oral Astellas/Medivation drug Xtandi (enzalutemide) and with Janssen pill Zytiga (abiraterone acetate).

The company's sales efforts have focused on large accounts like community oncology centers, which provided about 38% of the business during the quarter, management said. Zytiga is posing stiff competition in smaller, low-volume accounts.
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