In an effort to curb off-label use of its heart failure drug Natrecor, Johnson & Johnson's Scios division has unveiled a new education campaign recommending that doctors only use the drug in patients whose symptoms are so severe that they have been hospitalized.
Natrecor was approved in 2001 by the FDA specifically for use in acutely ill heart-failure patients who arrived at the hospital with breathing difficulties.
However, in recent years, Natrecor has also been dispensed in outpatient clinics where patients have come in for scheduled treatments. Such outpatient use contributed to global sales of the drug reaching $400 million last year.
The new education campaign will be rolled out over the next several weeks and consists of re-training the entire Natrecor sales force and its promotional speakers regarding the recommended use of the drug. Scios said it would also create new Natrecor promotional materials for use with healthcare providers and new language in promotional speakers programs and advertising in medical journals.
The campaign follows the appearance of two medical journal articles earlier this year that questioned whether the drug contributed to worsened kidney function and higher rates of death in patients and an April 2005 call from a panel of leading cardiologists asking J&J to review the drug.