Takeda backs Contrave with 900 sales reps

Takeda will take a unique approach to marketing Contrave
Takeda will take a unique approach to marketing Contrave

Orexigen and Takeda had just about a moment to bask in being the latest companies to get the FDA's approval to join the prescription weight-loss scrum, before upstarts, such as Novo Nordisk's liraglutide, started to make inroads as the possible next new thing for obese patients seeking to control their weight.

Yet the need for an obesity medication that patients will stick with, physicians will get behind and payers will cover remains a marketing goal, even though Arena's Belviq (lorcaserin) and Vivus's Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate) have been working to crack this triumvirate for the past few years.

Takeda's Director of Obesity Marketing Katie Andino told MM&M in a phone interview that the drugmaker will be taking a unique approach to courting all three parties. Although Andino could not discuss specifics until Contrave (naltrexone and bupropion) hits the marketplace, the brand already has experience with speaking to consumers differently, as seen by the tone and all-out approach Orexigen used when recruiting patients for its clinical trials

In terms of commercial outreach, Andino said Takeda will be focusing on patients “who are ready to go on Contrave, [and] are in the right frame of mind” to pair a chronic medication with lifestyle changes that include an activity regimen and diet modification. These same add-ons are essential components for success with Belviq and Qsymia, but Takeda indicates its approach will add a new voice to the weight-loss conversation.

The professional push will include samples, speakers and 900 Takeda sales representatives, some of whom will be making only Contrave-focused visits, while others will be able to talk about Contrave as well as Takeda's diabetes medications. Because of the overlap between diabetes and obese patients—obesity can put patients at risk for diabetes—the firm has an opportunity to build on relationships they already have with physicians such as endocrinologists. Sales reps will also be addressing OB/GYNs, cardiologists and primary care physicians, and Takeda's payer group will be talking about the drug with insurers.

Reps won't begin approaching doctors until the drug hits the market in the fall (Andino could not get more specific about timing), but the Takeda executive said she does not expect the firm will have to wait until 2015 to earn a spot on insurer formularies.

The consumer approach will include a mobile behavior modification resource. Andino said it was still too early to discuss the program, but Orexigen CEO Mike Narachi said in a Thursday conference call that it has been run through three randomized trials.

Orexigen's Chief Commercial Officer Mark Booth said during Thursday's presentation that the opportunity to reach obese patients is there—and that just 2 million of the 100 million potential patients are receiving a prescription weight-loss aid. “It's a large, rapidly growing and vastly underserved market,” he said.


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