UPDATED: Allergan snags tech partner for IBS-D platform, aiming to find future Viberzi patients

Allergan HQ

Allergan has been fighting hard to make up for lost time with Viberzi, and now it's come up with a new way to boost diagnoses--and, it hopes, script numbers.

The drugmaker has inked a pact with population health management specialist SonarMD to develop tools it hopes will help doctors monitor and manage patients using the drug for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D)--and turn up new patients, too. Those tools "are designed to correctly identify IBS-D patients based upon symptoms and signs," an Allergan spokesperson told FiercePharma via email.

Another aspect in development, a platform for online health assessments, will help info on those symptoms and signs reach healthcare professionals for diagnosis. Users of the platform will take monthly questionnaires--sent regardless of patients' office visits--and nurses will review the answers, taking information to doctors on an as-needed basis, the spokesperson said.

Allergan, of course, hopes those doctors turn to Viberzi, the IBS-D fighter it launched last December. While the med won the FDA’s go-ahead last May--the same day as did competitor Xifaxan from Valeant--it ran into a slowdown at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that kept it off the market for months.

Since then, though, Viberzi has battled its way back against its rival, thanks to coverage and commercial prowess that’s won praise from analysts. As of June, Allergan’s contender was inching up on Valeant’s on the payer side; Viberzi had pulled off unrestricted coverage for a higher percentage of lives. And that's “not a small feat” in the current payer climate, Bernstein’s Ronny Gal pointed out in a research note at the time.

On the script side, it's tough to compare the performance of Viberzi and Xifaxan, considering the latter drug is taken as a two-week antibiotic course and is also approved to treat hepatic encephalopathy, Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat told FiercePharma via email.

But after a $4 million start in the first quarter, Allergan's drug managed $20.4 million in the second quarter. That's a far cry from Valeant's $200 million for the quarter from Xifaxan, which made it the company's biggest-selling brand for the period.

Allergan isn’t relying on its internal sales engine to keep things trending upward, though. In addition to the SonarMD agreement, this month Allergan announced it was bringing together a group of experts--dubbed IBS CounSEL--to provide support, education and leadership to doctors. And back in May, the company rolled out IBSDonTract.com, an online resource for patients complete with info on identifying symptoms, managing the condition and speaking with a doctor about IBS-D.

Allergan isn’t the only one looking to offer patients comprehensive support in the irritable bowel disease arena. Last month, Takeda launched wearable digital tech program iBDATA to help patients and doctors work together on collecting data for disease management.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to include analyst comments and sales figures.