A thorough analysis of promotional spending, sales trends and marketing effectiveness lead to our selection of Truvada as MM&M’s All-Star Marketing Team of the Year in the category of small pharma.

Here are the facts. Truvada surpassed all market competition during the first six months of 2006 and solidified its position as the leading HIV nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) within a competitive market that accounts for 65% of all HIV antivirals sold, according to data from IMS Health.

During the first six months of 2006, sales of Truvada reached $407 million—a 104% improvement when compared to the same period a year earlier, IMS Health data show.

Also during the first six months of 2006, Truvada, for the first time, captured 23.4% market share among NRTIs—coming out ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Combivir.

Truvada’s main selling point is its convenience, as highlighted in professional and DTC print and outdoor ads featuring the tagline:
“You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so why settle for an HIV med that’s twice a day?”
“Truvada is revolutionary because simplicity leads to better outcomes,” Gilead’s CFO John Milligan, a former Gilead scientist who has been with the company for 16 years, told reporters last summer.

“The drug clearly dominates its class,” said Sharon Seiler, an analyst at Punk, Ziegel who sent a note to her clients in June advising them to buy the company’s stock. “The company has a lot of credibility.”

Doctors now prescribe Truvada to an estimated 60% of all newly diagnosed HIV cases in the US. First launched in 2004, Truvada combines two drugs—300 mg of Gilead’s Viread and 200 mg of Emtriva.

The combination drug keeps HIV from altering the genetic material of healthy T-cells, preventing the cells from producing new virus and ultimately decreasing the amount of the virus in the body. For Truvada to be effective, patients must take it in combination with at least one other anti-HIV drug, usually a protease inhibitor or a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI).
Good news came for Truvada in 2005 when six-month data indicated 94% of patients who switched to Truvada from then-market leader Combivir maintained a viral load below 400 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood. In addition, 76% had a viral load less than 50 copies compared with 59% prior to switching.

Truvada represents the ongoing effort to simplify HIV treatment and improve patient compliance. Less than 10 years ago, an HIV patient needed to take a total of 30 pills a day in a 10-pill, three time-a-day regimen. Studies show that once patients take more than six pills a day, their compliance falls off. 

The convenience and demand for a product like Truvada, combined with the know-how of its marketing team was the secret behind the brand’s success during the past year, according to Sarah Mittag, senior account supervisor at AbelsonTaylor, which has handled professional ad duties for Truvada since January 2004.

“The marketing team is very experienced in HIV. They are also very good at using market research and really understand the market, in addition to what their marketing experience tells them,” she said.

Another advantage the Truvada marketing team had was working for Gilead, Mittag adds.
 “Because they work for a smaller company, they see things quickly and they can really react well to what is happening in the market,” she added. “HIV is a fast-changing market, this marketing team is able to adapt to the market and react appropriately.”

Unfortunately, Gilead was unable to cooperate with our requests to identify and photograph members of its marketing team, and discuss particular aspects of its marketing campaign with us.
Gilead’s CEO said earlier this year of the success of Truvada and the company’s AIDS franchise, “We are one small company in a big world where billions of dollars are being put at the problem of AIDS. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and look forward to what we’ll do in the future.”

The Runners-up:
In July, Sepracor stepped up its marketing spend for Lunesta in an effort to boost wavering sales and take advantage of the disappearance of anticipated sleep-aid rival Indiplon. The announcement came as Sepracor announced a second-quarter profit, a turnaround from last year’s loss. And Lunesta sales during the quarter reached $139 million, an increase of 66% over the same period last year.

The removal of Indiplon “provided an opportunity for us to continue to develop this market,” said Timothy Barberich, Sepracor CEO. “However, that requires sustained investment in both customer and professional communications programs. As a result, we will be guiding to a slightly higher SG&A [sales, general & administrative cost] for the balance of the year.”
Meanwhile, DTC TV ads for Lunesta were the “most recalled” by consumers, according to data released in late 2006 from the firm IAG Research.  

As Kos’ flagship product—accounting for almost 60% of income—Niaspan is touted as the most effective currently marketed product available to raise HDL cholesterol.

Sales of Niaspan were at $400 million for 2005, according to sales figures from Verispan. At press time, Niaspan sales were on track to break $500 million for 2006.   

These impressive results made Kos an acquisition target and in November, Abbott Laboratories purchased the company. 

“This acquisition expands Abbott’s presence in the lipid-management market and will provide several on-market and late-stage pipeline products,” said Abbott CEO Miles White.