Watson beefs up women's health biz, adds 19 sales reps

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Generics and specialty pharma Watson Pharmaceuticals acquired a progesterone gel, marketed as Crinone and Prochieve, and added roughly 19 reps to its women's health sales force. Watson now employs close to 400 reps, according to Charlie Mayr, a company spokesperson.

The 19 new reps supporting Crinone and Prochieve were transitioned over from Columbia Laboratories, where Crinone and Prochieve were first introduced in 1997. Reps will target urologists, Ob/Gyns, reproductive endocrinologists and general practitioners, said Mayr, as well as institutions and clinics. Watson paid $47 million for exclusive US marketing rights, and received 11,200,000 shares of common stock in Columbia Laboratories as part of the deal. Merck Serono holds commercialization rights to Crinone in all markets outside of the US.

Mayr said Watson is looking to grow its branded drug portfolio, specifically in urology and women's health. Last February Watson became a marketing partner on HRA Pharma's Ella (ulipristal acetate), an emergency contraceptive currently undergoing FDA review; an FDA panel voted unanimously in favor of approval in mid-June. Ella (called EllaOne in Europe) received marketing approval across the European Union in May 2009, becoming the first product specifically designed for emergency contraceptive to be approved by the European Commission, according to an HRA Pharma statement.                 

A selective progesterone receptor modulator, Ella has demonstrated an ability in clinical trials to reduce the chance of pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex; Plan B is indicated as an emergency contraceptive for up to 72 hours, or three days, after sex, and lost sales in 2009 due to generic competition, according to a Teva financial statement. Watson launched a bioequivalent two-pill generic of Plan B, called Next Choice, in August of 2009.   

Mayr said he expects an FDA decision on Ella in “late July or early August.” Erin Gainer, CEO of HRA Pharma, told Agence France-Presse in June that a US approval could bring in sales of “several hundred million dollars.”

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