Proctor & Gamble and Somaxon Pharmaceuticals have deployed 215 reps in support of Silenor (doxepin), a newly approved sleep aid indicated for sleep maintenance. E-detailing programs will also launch this quarter.
Jeffrey Raser, SVP and chief commercial officer of Somaxon, said in an email that P&G reps will focus on primary care and high-prescribing physicians, while Somaxon reps will focus on specialists – including psychiatrists, neurologists and other sleep disorder specialists – and high-prescribing primary care physicians.
Additionally, Somoxon tapped Publicis Selling Solutions (PSS) for contract sales support, and hired 10 regional sales managers to work directly with PSS reps, according to Raser. PSS reps will only sell Silenor, he said. Revolution Health is the AOR for Silenor, and Ignite Health is handling online activities in support of the brand.
Combined sales forces are expected to reach 35,000 physicians and 25,000 pharmacies, according to a company statement, and e-detailing programs will target physicians not called on directly by reps. Somaxon will also target consumers with online advertising, a brand.com site with consumer and physician portals, and SEO, said Raser.
Unlike Ambien (which is available in generic) and Ambien CR, Silenor is indicated for sleep maintenance (staying asleep) and not sleep onset (going to sleep initially); Ambien and Ambien CR are indicated for both. However, other prescription sleep aids, including Ambien and Lunesta, are scheduled drugs, whereas Silenor was not deemed a controlled substance by FDA. Silenor marketers hope to leverage that distinction with doctors and patients.
“In phase 3 clinical studies, Silenor had a favorable safety and tolerability profile, and was not associated with physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation,” said Raser. Since Silenor is not a controlled substance, Somaxon also hopes to parlay its co-promotion deal with P&G into an OTC partnership in the future, according to Somaxon president and CEO Richard Pascoe. P&G sold its pharmaceutical business to Warner Chilcott last year for $3.1 billion, with an eye toward building its consumer health business, which includes products like Prilosec, NyQuil, Pepto Bismol and many others.
In a Sept. 22 segment on Fox Business, Pascoe said that Lunesta (marketed by Sepracor) is the only other major prescription sleep aid being actively promoted, which gives Somaxon – and its partner P&G – an opportunity. In the US, 70 million people suffer from insomnia, and only 20% are treated, said Pascoe in the Fox segment. Of the 70 million, 50 million are sleep maintenance insomniacs, he said.
“Silenor has high affinity for the histamine H1 receptor and though the exact mechanism by which it works to promote sleep is unknown, it is believed to work by antagonism of the H1 receptor — a different mechanism than other currently available insomnia medications,” said Raser in an email.