Jazz hiring 100-plus sales representatives to prep for new narcolepsy and AML launches

Jazz Pharmaceuticals, with corporate headquarters in Dublin seen above, is prepping for a new drug and a European approval. (Pixabay)

Jazz Pharmaceuticals is closing in on two new approvals, one on each side of the Atlantic, and it's staffing up to hit the ground running on both launches.

Chief operating officer Dan Swisher said Jazz is adding 100 sales representatives in the U.S. for the expected approval of solriamfetol, a candidate to treat excessive sleepiness in adult patients with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea. Although that figure won’t double the company's sales force, it's a “significant expansion” for the drugmaker, which is approaching $2 billion in sales this year. Jazz is also studying the use of solriamfetol in other conditions where excessive sleepiness is a problem, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Jazz has hired a full brand team for the rollout of solriamfetol, which it expects to become a significant addition to its portfolio with eventual sales of $500 million. Right now, it’s running a pre-launch disease awareness campaign targeted at healthcare professionals (HCPs) but expects to take marketing directly to consumers down the road.

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“We’ve got this broad-based disease awareness campaign going to healthcare professionals. We look forward to having a more drug-specific awareness campaign coming later, and then obviously a lot of healthcare provider promotion, and then at the right point, activating consumers,” Swisher said.

RELATED: Xyrem campaign from under-fire Jazz keeps narcolepsy awareness at the fore

Meanwhile, Jazz has bumped its European field force of sales and medical to 80 from 50, with the expected European approval for Vyxeos as a first-line treatment for secondary acute myeloid leukemia next month. The drug was approved in the U.S. last August, and Swisher characterized the U.S. rollout as “going well” with a dedicated field force of 30 and anticipated sales of $120 million expected this year.

Jazz employs 1,200 people globally with corporate headquarters in Dublin and U.S. headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. Swisher joined Jazz in January after 17 years at Sunesis Pharmaceuticals where he was president and CEO.

Jazz is, of course, still pushing on its bread-and-butter narcolepsy drug Xyrem, which has about 14,000 patients on treatment. Its target market is lots bigger: 60,000 patients already diagnosed and another estimated 60,000 who are undiagnosed, Swisher said. A recent narcolepsy awareness promotion with HCPs led to “near double-digit growth in new starts,” he said.

RELATED: Jazz nabs early FDA nod for AML med Vyxeos. Is diversifying M&A next?

Jazz has its eyes on even broader use, too. Xyrem is up for a new approval in pediatric patients, and Jazz is hoping to roll out the drug for kids next year. It’s also pursuing a low-sodium version of Xyrem which currently has very high levels, a fact that's noted by physicians as an issue in prescribing.

Jazz is pushing innovations and marketing around Xyrem as it faces a slew of upcoming generics, with eight tentatively approved by the FDA to date. With patent litigation now settled, the first Xyrem generic is expected to come to market in 2023.