Sunovion Pharmaceuticals is targeting 22,000 psychiatrists in the US, with a sales force of 336 reps, in support of Latuda, an atypical antipsychotic for the treatment of schizophrenia. Psychiatrists can also request samples and track delivery online.

Latuda (lurasidone HCL) hit pharmacy shelves in early February, and reps will emphasize the drug’s efficacy and positive cardiometabolic profile, according to slides presented by Mark Iwicki, president and chief operating officer, Sunovion, at a meeting in Tokyo on January 25. An additional team of 70 reps will target hospitals, and a “majority” of all reps “have previously sold at least 1 other atypical antipsychotic,” according to the slides. Abelson Taylor has the professional AOR assignment.

Susan Adler, a Sunovion spokesperson, said patient support programs for Latuda are in place, and that materials for patients would be a component of the company’s promotional efforts. Television spots will probably not be used, said Adler. “In general, atypical antipsychotic product [marketers] wouldn’t focus on [televised] DTC ads,” she said.

Latuda was tested against olanzapine (Zyprexa) for weight change as part of Sunovion’s PEARL study, and findings indicated that patients taking Latuda experienced an average change in weight of roughly 2.2 pounds for a 40mg dosage, and 2.4 pounds for a 120mg dosage; Latuda is currently available in 40 and 80 mg dosages, to be taken once daily. Olanzapine (15mg) demonstrated an average weight change of 9.2 pounds in the PEARL study. Adler declined to speak about the drug’s metabolic profile with respect to marketing plans.

Sunovion is currently testing Latuda for bipolar depression, and plans to submit a sNDA during the first half of 2012, according to a slide presentation given by Antony Loebel, EVP, clinical research and medical affairs, at the meeting in January. The company expects to submit Latuda for approval in Canada and China this year, and is currently analyzing phase 3 data in Japan. In Europe, “active partnering discussions” are in progress, according to Loebel’s slides. An estimated two million people have schizophrenia in the US, according to company data.  

In clinical trials, the most common adverse reactions, according to an FDA approval announcement, included drowsiness, feelings of restlessness and the urge to move (akathisia), nausea, movement abnormalities such as tremors, slow movement, or muscle stiffness (Parkinsonism), and agitation. Latuda also carries a black box warning related to increased mortality rates in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis, a warning common to the antipsychotic drug class.    

FDA approved Latuda last October, the same month Sepracor changed its name to Sunovion. An estimated two million people have schizophrenia in the US, according to company data.

Sepracor was acquired by Japan-based Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma in September of 2009, for $2.6 billion.