Post-Endo pact, will Vivus go it alone on U.S. Stendra marketing--and should it?

Back in January, Endo walked away from its U.S. marketing pact with Vivus over erectile dysfunction med Stendra. And with the termination date for their agreement approaching, Vivus still isn’t sure what it’s going to do to fill the gap.

Come September 1, when Endo’s Auxilium is set to hand back rights, “we or a third party will assume Stendra’s promotion activities,” Vivus CEO Seth Fischer said on Thursday’s Q2 conference call. But the company doesn’t yet know which it’ll be.

The California drugmaker is “moving down the path to commercialize the product ... on our own, but also running down a parallel path” to find a marketing partner, he said. “So we are in fact training our own people along with running the other process.”

Vivus has gone it alone once before when it comes to marketing a product--and the results have been less than stellar. Its decision not to bring on a Big Pharma partner to help commercialize obesity med Qsymia sparked a proxy war in 2013 that eventually sent half its board and its then-CEO packing. On top of that, Qsymia has failed to get off the ground; weak sales have spurred multiple rounds of rep cuts, the most recent of which left Vivus with just a 50-person Qsymia sales army.

Of course, other makers of obesity drugs with larger sales ranks have faced their own share of troubles. Both Arena, which signed on Eisai to help market Belviq, and Orexigen, which teamed with Takeda on promoting Contrave, have suffered dismal sales, too.

ED, though, is a different space altogether--and one where companies including Pfizer and Eli Lilly have proven meds can make it big. And Stendra, which touts a faster onset than that of its rivals, seemed to start off on the right foot, with advertisements aired during March Madness helping breathe life into Vivus’ top line.

“The ED market is promotionally sensitive, and when Stendra is actively promoted, supported by digitial and print advertising, Stendra was able to significantly increase its market share,” Fischer said.

The downside? “When promotion ends, it quickly will lose any gains made,” he acknowledged--meaning the under-pressure company will have to find a way to keep the ads coming.

- read the call transcript

Related Articles:
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