Salix arms its GI salesforce with 2nd liver treatment in Doptelet co-promotional deal

Bausch Health headquarters (formerly Valeant)
Salix, Bausch Health's GI arm, will co-promote a Dova chronic liver disease treatment in a new deal that bumps out its portfolio in that area. (Bausch Health)

Salix Pharmaceuticals continues to roll up partners in bid to broaden its reach. Its latest deal not only beefs up its own portfolio, but gives Dova Pharmaceuticals a co-promotional boost for its chronic liver disease drug Doptelet, which just won FDA approval.

The deal gives Dova access to Salix's bigger sales force with established physician connections, while Salix gets another liver medicine to market to doctors. Salix’s Xifaxan, better known for its IBS-D indication, is also approved to treat hepatic encephalopathy, a complication of liver cirrhosis.

The GI arm of Bausch Health, Salix plans to deploy 100 of its gastroenterology sales reps already working in liver disease and add Doptelet by mid-October. Dova will continue its separate sales efforts, which specifically target hepatologists and interventional radiologists. Doptelet is approved to treat thrombocytopenia in adults with chronic liver disease who are scheduled for a medical or dental procedure.

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Thrombocytopenia is a platelet deficiency that can increase risks for bleeding in chronic liver disease patients. Patients with CDL typically receive a platelet transfusion before procedures, but Doptelet is designed to circumvent that.

Mark McKenna, Salix’ senior VP and general manager, said adding first-in-class Doptelet makes Salix “more relevant to physicians."

“Dova has started initial marketing efforts, and they’ll continue to own the marketing end of the collaboration; however, we’ll offer a lot of assistance in regard to day one access to physicians, and knowledge and know-how on the market access side, he said. "And on the medical side, to change the way physicians think about how they treat these patients."

This summer, Salix struck a deal with US WorldMeds to co-promote its opioid withdrawal drug Lucemyra, boosting a pain medicine franchise built around opioid-induced constipation drug Relistor. It also announced in August a team-up with Cedars Sinai to research new therapies related to the gut microbiome. McKenna said the latter is a bid to invest in earlier-stage treatments to accelerate its pipeline.

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While Bausch Health, formerly Valeant, once spent heavily to promote Xifaxan through direct-to-consumer ads, it lately has concentrated more on a sales-force drive. Beginning in 2016, it ramped up its sales force for both Xifaxan and Relistor, a big investment; those additional sales resources, along with increased promotional spending, cost more than $50 million in 2017, according to its most recent financial report. Those were “amounts well spent,” the report said, as sales increased 37% for Xifaxan and 48% for Relistor for the six months ended in June 2018 versus the same time period in 2017.

While Bausch Health doesn’t break out individual drug sales, Salix' total sales for the first six months of 2018 were $863 million, a 25% increase from $688 million during the same period in 2017.