Allergan plots Namzaric DTC campaign to shore up its Namenda defenses

DTC advertising drove a double-digit jump for Allergan's ($AGN) facial aesthetic business last quarter. And with generics now pouncing on blockbuster Namenda, the company is hoping it can repeat that ad-campaign success for its new Alzheimer's treatment.

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders

The Irish pharma is planning a September DTC campaign for new treatment Namzaric, which combines the active ingredient in Eisai's Aricept (donepezil) with Namenda's (memantine), CEO Brent Saunders said last week. And if that campaign can perform as well as Allergan's recent DTC on anchor Botox and cheek-volume-booster Juvéderm Voluma--which helped increase brand awareness to 42% from 27% in Q1--it'll be in a better position to fend off Namenda's generic attackers.

"We're always monitoring the situation, looking at both response and return," on DTC investments, Saunders said during the company's Q2 conference call. And Allergan has "no issue making them so long as we see a strong ROI."

Allergan won't be relying solely on DTC, though. It's currently "doing the blocking and tackling to build demand and access" for the drug, Saunders said, and he expects 7 of the top 10 formulary plans to cover the med by early next year.

Allergan EVP Bill Meury

To win that coverage, the company is offering discounts, putting Namzaric at a "price point that is attractive to health plans and acceptable to us," Bill Meury, the company's EVP of branded pharma, said on the call. "As it relates to 2016, Namzaric is going to be highly economical. … And I think the majority of patients are going to have an opportunity to get it," he said.

That should help the Dublin drugmaker snap up patients it may otherwise have lost to Namenda knockoffs, which are threatening the therapy's $1.88 billion in sales. Allergan succeeded in converting about 53% of Namenda patients to a newer, long-acting version--Namenda XR--before knockoffs hit. But that version could lose volume to copycats, too, Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat wrote in a late July note to clients.

So far, though, XR "looks very resilient," Raffat wrote. According to Saunders, formulary access, a convenient dosing regimen and a "focused" sales team are helping keep volumes "relatively stable."

- read Allergan's call transcript from Seeking Alpha

Special Reports: The top 10 patent losses of 2015 - Namenda | Pharma's top 10 M&A deals of 2014's first half - Actavis/Forest Laboratories

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