Covidien announced the launch of two branded pain drugs—Exalgo and Pennsaid —and hired around 250 reps to support the products. Professional ads for both products were set to be released last month.

Both drugs contain active ingredients that have been on the market for years—hydromorphone and diclofenac— but Covidien licensed in novel delivery mechanisms in order to create two new products that address unmet needs, according to Herb Neuman, chief medical officer and VP of medical affairs at Covidien.  

To educate prescribers on these new offerings, Covidien enlarged nearly every function of its medical affairs department, including the addition of medical science liaisons, a first for the company, said Neuman. JoAnna Schooler, communications director at Covidien, said direct mail went out to physicians. GSW Worldwide worked on the websites and other materials for the brands.

Exalgo is a 24-hour extended release tablet, the first brand to offer a single dose per day formulation of hydromorphone. The extended-release, osmotic delivery system for Exalgo was developed by Alza Corporation, and commercial rights for Exalgo were licensed from CombinatoRx, which received a $40 million milestone payment upon the drug’s approval. Exalgo is indicated for opioid-tolerant patients suffering from moderate-to-severe chronic pain.

Pennsaid, Covidien’s second foray into the branded pain drug category, adds a novel penetration enhancer, dimethyl sulfoxide, to the mix. It is indicated for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Although Exalgo and Pennsaid were both licensed in from other companies, Neuman said Covidien is conducting research and development internally. “We’re really focused on trying to alleviate pain, so we’re open to any avenue that leads to products that help patients with pain, and help clinicians that care for them,” he said.