Company news: Burson-Marsteller, Corcept and Orexigen

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PR firm Burson-Marsteller launched a new healthcare subsidiary, Consitor. Staffed with scientists, clinicians, marketers, branding specialists and public health experts, Consitor is designed to “help healthcare companies and institutions develop integrated communication strategies,” according to a statement. Services, on both the corporate and product level, include strategy development, brand life cycle management, KOL development, scientific communications, health economics, policy, advocacy and market access. The unit has offices in Zurich, Switzerland, under the leadership of Dr. Toula Stoffel, who has led Burson-Marsteller's EMEA healthcare practice since 2009, and in Washington, DC, under the leadership of Dr. Reyn Archer, managing director and chief medical officer in the Burson's US healthcare practice.

Corcept Therapeutics' narrowed its net loss to $7.6 million for the quarter ended June 30, compared to a net loss of $8.9 million for the same period the year before. During the first full quarter since the company earned FDA approval for its Cushing's syndrome drug, Korlym, the firm pulled in $875,000 in sales. R&D costs were $2.7 million for the quarter, a drop of more than 50% for the same period last year, when such outlays totaled $6.2 million. SG&A expenses rose to $5.8 million for the quarter, compared to $2.7 million for the same period last year, an increase Corcept said “was primarily due to the additional staffing, consultancy costs and other professional service resources necessary to commercialize Korlym.” The company also noted it is seeking to expand the use of the rare-disease drug to include treatment of psychotic depression.

Orexigen Therapeutics, which is seeking approval for multiple weight-loss drugs, said it widened its net loss for the quarter ended June 30 to $16.7 million, a 78% increase, vs. a net loss of $7.6 million for the same period last year. Operating expenses grew to $17.6 million for the quarter, compared to the same period last year when expenses were $8.3 million. The company attributed the increase to its focus on a cardiovascular safety test of Contrave. The FDA asked for the test (called the Light Study) to “rule out excess cardiovascular risk in overweight and obese patients.” The study kicked off in June with more than 1,500 patients. The drug, like the now-approved treatments Qsymia (Vivus) and Belviq (Arena/Eisai), had been panned by the FDA, but the company is seeking a new review. Orexigen's other pipeline weight-loss drug is Empatic, which, like Qsymia, includes the anti-seizure medication topiramate. The company said in a statement that it expects to discuss Empatic Phase III trials with the FDA this year.

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