Bristol exec hints of Onglyza launch strategy

Now that AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb have the EMEA's nod on Onglyza, they're revving up to launch the new diabetes remedy. First target: Germany. Timing: By the end of this quarter. Now, the companies are still waiting for the European Commission to ratify the EMEA's decision, so the anticipation may be a bit premature. But no one has launched a drug successfully without a plan, have they?

In a press briefing in Frankfurt yesterday, Bristol's German chief Han Steutel gave a hint of the partnership's sales strategy, too. As Bloomberg notes, Steutel leaned heavily on Onglyza's side-effect profile. Or, rather, on the side effects of Onglyza's competitors: "The products which are currently on the market have side effects" such as weight gain and lower-than-normal blood glucose, he said. Onglyza doesn't.

Analysts are already salivating over Onglyza's potential boost for both companies. A Citigroup pharma-watcher pegged U.S. peak sales for the drug at $1 billion in a note to investors yesterday. (That's if and when the FDA approves it, which hasn't happened yet.) Steutel wouldn't put a number to it, but if U.S. sales reach blockbuster levels, then worldwide sales would be much bigger. The companies should get a good indication of its overall uptake once it launches in Germany; that country is the biggest European market for diabetes treatments.

- read the Bloomberg piece