Salix, US WorldMeds eye 2019 push into the mainstream for opioid withdrawal drug Lucemyra

First-ever opioid withdrawal drug Lucemyra is being launched by partners US WorldMeds and Salix with a message around controlling debilitating withdrawal symptoms. (US WorldMeds and Salix)

Salix and US WorldMeds are zeroing in on doctors, payers and pharmacy shelves as they roll out their opioid withdrawal drug Lucemyra. But it won't be long before marketing expands to a mainstream audience.

The partners officially launched Lucemyra last week with the usual physician outreach, coupled with some digital and print marketing targeted at consumers, including a support app for patients. Their mainstream push will go bigger next year, said executives from both companies.

“We’re really focused on phase one, but as we get into 2109, we’ll broaden our digital efforts and add other ways to address consumers where they get their information. Right now the big challenge is that as patients are on these opiates, they don’t even know that withdrawal can happen,” said Mark McKenna, president at Salix Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharma brand of Bausch Health Companies, formerly Valeant.

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That makes for a much broader audience for Lucemyra beyond patients already addicted to opioids and seeking help to quit. Studies have shown people can suffer withdrawal symptoms even after taking the drugs for as few as five days, making them susceptible to withdrawal symptoms—often described as the worst flu of your life—including debilitating nausea, aches, pains, chills and tremors.

The partners hope they can get Lucemyra, a nonopioid withdrawal treatment, incorporated into opioid use protocols and comprehensive management plans for opioid use disorder.

But the key marketing message at launch doesn’t distinguish between patients who don’t know they could suffer opioid withdrawal and those who need treatment to quit abusing the meds. Instead, it's all about the approved indication, and the message is control—control of the physical symptoms needed to get through withdrawal, said H. Lee Warren, chief operating officer at US WorldMeds.

“Let’s get patients back in control, let’s get healthcare providers back in control and give them an evidence-based medicine to do that,” Warren said, adding, "That’s the initial message we’re getting out. We’re talking to the indication and to all the many stakeholders involved.” He ticked off some of those including pharmacies, employers and PBMs that all have opioid management programs—meant to educate and highlight the benefits, risk and costs of opioid prescribing—where Lucemyra might fit.

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To get the word out, the partners are mobilizing their combined sales forces—Salix’ reps for opioid-induced constipation drug Relistor, who already have experience dealing with the effects of opioids and have established relationships with doctors, plus US WorldMeds' specifically hired sales force for Lucemyra—to the tune of hundreds of feet on the street.

Along with education and support, they’ll also be talking up the patient app called Luminate, which tracks Lucemyra doses, sends reminders, offers daily support messages and guided meditations, and also includes education, advice and tips on symptoms and relief.

“It’s not a cure, but we have clinical data showing that this product can really help patients. We’re going to put a lot of marketing muscle behind it and we’re going to put a lot of physician education around it, however, this is not going to be some kind of revolution, it will be an evolution over time. We’re going to stay the course and stay focused on eliminating these deaths that happen unnecessarily,” McKenna said.