Idorsia's insomnia drug Quviviq hits the market with 500 sales reps and plans for 'robust' DTC campaign

Idorsia has its work cut out as it tries to gain a foothold for its new sleeping pill Quviviq in what’s undoubtedly a tough market.

So with its first-ever commercial drug hitting the shelves this month, the startup is unleashing a 600-strong consumer-facing field team including 500 sales reps to get the word out with HCPs.

That follows an ambitious and high-profile introduction to the insomnia space at the start of this year with its unbranded “Seize the Night & Day'' campaign with A-lister actress Jennifer Aniston.

“It’s been an exciting week for us,” Patricia Torr, president and general manager of Idorsia U.S., said in an interview about the drug's market debut last week.

She added that reps were “energized and ready to hit the ground running” and hinted that a “very robust” DTC campaign, likely with another celebrity, is in the works to introduce the new drug to America’s 25 million insomnia sufferers and their doctors.

“We’re looking at celebrities but we’re still in the process of fine-tuning our plans there. More to come shortly,” she said.

When it comes to marketing strategy, the company is approaching Quviviq as a “consumer-oriented brand that needs a physician’s prescription,” Torr said. It plans to lean heavily on digital and social platforms to “meet patients where they are'' along with more traditional HCP engagement efforts such as medical conferences.

The Swiss biopharma, a spinout from pharma giant Johnson & Johnson’s buyout of Actelion, also plans to continue its unbranded work with Aniston and others throughout the year, which hinges on raising awareness of insomnia as a chronic disease that impacts both a person's day and their night.

In addition to the Aniston spot, the company rolled out “The Quest for Sleep” in March narrated by actress Octavia Spencer. The documentary film follows the lives of people with insomnia and has been viewed more than 625,000 times since its debut, Torr said.

It also launched the insomnia think tank Alliance for Sleep late last year to boost education and research about the condition. The alliance commissioned a Harris Poll survey to learn more about the hidden toll insomnia takes on relationships, work and mental health and found 70% of people with trouble sleeping are desperate to find a solution.

“Both HCPs and patients aren’t satisfied with the current available treatment options and I think that’s really an opportunity for us,” Torr said.

Quviviq aced a phase 3 trial in insomnia patients, showing that the dual orexin receptor antagonist (DORA) not only helped them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer but also reduced daytime sleepiness.

Idorsia is hoping that will set it apart from other DORA drugs including Eisai’s Dayvigo, which won FDA approval last year, and Merck’s more established Belsomra. The latter has been on the market for seven years but has failed to catch on with patients, bringing in just $327 million in 2020. 

Although Quviviq won approval in the U.S. in January, it didn’t reach the market until now because the FDA requested it be registered as a controlled substance. The drug picked up another regulatory nod in Europe last week.