Sanofi, following in Endo's footsteps, hands back rights to Vivus on ED med Stendra

Sanofi is returning Stendra commercial rights for Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes Russia.

It’s déjà vu for Vivus, which has already had marketing rights for ED med Stendra returned to it by one of its partners. Now, another one has seen enough, and that’s Sanofi, which is walking away from the partnership.

Earlier this week, the French drugmaker handed back commercial rights to the erectile dysfunction med for Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes Russia. The pharma giant will be helping out with the transition, though, to make sure that approval processes going on in Russia and certain Middle Eastern countries don’t hit any snags as the med changes hands.

RELATED: Endo ends Stendra marketing pact, leaving Vivus in the lurch

Vivus CEO Seth Fischer, in a statement, painted the transfer as an opportunity to “continue our efforts to build long-term stockholder value,” but he did acknowledge that the California company is already scouting for a new partner to pick up where Sanofi left off.

Whether it’ll find one, though? That’s a different story. After all, the drugmaker hasn’t had a whole lot of luck on that front; after its decision to go it alone with marketing for obesity flop Qsymia prompted a 2013 proxy rebellion, Vivus pledged to find a teammate, and it’s been searching ever since.

On the Stendra front, though, it’s been more successful—though that’s not to say there haven’t been big bumps in the road. The company went all out, inking multiple marketing pacts, but one of those—a U.S. accord with Auxilium, which is now part of Endo—had already been returned before Sanofi walked.

As the time neared to sign a new U.S. deal or fly solo, Vivus itself still didn’t know which path it’d be taking, with Fischer noting last summer that the company was “moving down the path to commercialize the product ... on our own, but also running down a parallel path” to find a marketing partner. But in October, it did land a new agreement, this time granting a license to Metuchen to cover the U.S., Canada, South America and India.

Vivus will have to act fast once again if it hopes to minimize the damage to Stendra, which competes in a “promotionally sensitive” ED market, as Fischer put it last year. It’s also got plenty of big competition in the space, with Pfizer and Eli Lilly hawking well-established blockbusters in Viagra and Cialis, respectively.