If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The time-tested, one-two marketing punch of a DTC campaign, followed by adding more reps, may do the trick for Arena Pharmaceuticals weight-loss drug Belviq, marketers hope.
In a second-quarter earnings call Friday, Arena President and CEO Jack Lief said that Belviq prescriptions increased by 43% in the second quarter, soaring to 110,000 overall, and that scripts have surpassed the 10,000-per-week milestone. More than 330,000 total prescriptions have been filed since its launch, Lief added.
Those gains have yet to translate into huge sales, though. The drugmaker reported Belviq revenue of just $9.9 million, up from $8.4 million in Q1.
The DTC campaign—dubbed “beyond willpower”—features a hesitant man over the grill as he tries to refrain from another chicken wing and a woman standing in front of a lighted fridge late at night as a voiceover declares, “I’m still hungry.” The campaign seems to suggest that sometimes the desire alone to control eating habits isn’t enough. (A print campaign leverages the headline, “You could be carrying more than just extra weight.”)
Since the TV spots debuted in mid-April, Lief stated, “new Belviq prescribers have increased from approximately 800 per week to 1,200 per week.”
Eisai, Arena’s marketing partner, also deployed an additional 200 sales reps in an attempt to promote further physician penetration. The enlarged sales force was expected to be active by July 1. The drugmakers expect these extra feet on the ground will expand their reach to approximately 92,000 physicians.
Despite its success this past quarter, Arena and Eisai aren’t banking on reps and commercials alone. Arena has Belviq (locaserin) in a number of clinical trials to help encourage reimbursement and extend its life cycle. The drug is currently being investigated for its effects in reducing a patient’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes as well as a cardiovascular event (i.e. heart attack, stroke) and to see whether locaserin can be used as an aid to stop smoking.