A year of FDA wrangling gave Sanofi subsidiary Genzyme a significant amount of lead time for the launch of its now-approved MS drug Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). The first infusions began last week, two weeks after regulatory approval.

“We’ve been working on this staffing model and the support for quite some period of time,” Carole Huntsman, Genzyme VP and MS business unit head, North America, told MM&M in a phone interview.

The array of support for professional outreach includes medical science liaisons, business relations managers who are charged with helping medical practices with coding and billing, and infusion support managers who teach infusion staff about the medication. Some of the Lemtrada sales staff are returnees who signed on to promote the drug in anticipation of a 2013/2014 rollout, but who were let go when the FDA provided a Complete Response Letter instead.

Huntsman would not share a sales force headcount, but said Genzyme is cross-training teams so reps for its oral MS drug Aubagio (teriflunomide) can cover Lemtrada basics and vice versa.

The company is keeping consumer marketing materials from rolling out until at least six months, but Huntsman said agency Havas’s H4B Chelsea is already working on DTC materials in addition to professional outreach. She said she expects the professional materials will “utilize every digital and hard copy collateral aspect that we can,” including materials that will presented on  iPads.

Patients and patient groups lobbied the FDA to change its mind about the drug and Huntsman said the patient voice that helped encourage the approval is one the company expects to capture in the patient messaging when it goes live.

“Some of the different social media thought leaders, if you will, have been really vocal . . . about Lemtrada and the impact of Lemtrada,” the exec said about the social presence not provided by the company.

Huntsman said that some patients who spoke at the FDA advisory panel meetings have stayed in touch with the company and that the plan is for some of these patients to be part of the company’s patient ambassador program as part of the consumer outreach.