Avanir cranks up sales force for Nuedexta

Now that it has its FDA approval for Nuedexta in the bag, Avanir Pharmaceuticals ($AVNR) is switching into marketing mode. The drug, approved to treat pseudobulbar affect (PBA), is the first earmarked for the uncontrollable spells of laughing and crying associated with the disorder. So it has no direct rivals--which gives Avanir an open playing field.

CEO Keith Katkin says he has a team of seven specialty salespeople ready to go and 68 more ready for training. Katkin plans to "hit the ground running," targeting some 15,000 specialists in neurology, geriatrics, psychiatry and rehab; PBA is linked to neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig's disease. Each rep will get a list of 200 doctors to target. The aim is to "cast a very wide net" as the drug is launched.

Meanwhile, Avanir has to get its packaging and distribution together; it's looking toward putting Nuedexta on the market during the first quarter of 2011. To pay for all that, Avanir has some $39 million on hand, which Katkin says is enough "to fund the initial launch." If investors--who doubled the stock price by market close yesterday--and upbeat analysts expecting a "strong launch" are right, the company will soon be on its way to peak sales estimated at up to $500 million.

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