GSK readies 500 reps for Horizant launch

Now that they have FDA approval for Horizant in the bag, GlaxoSmithKline and Xenoport are working out a sales strategy. And if the companies' statistics hold true, there are more than 5 million Americans with symptoms of restless legs syndrome, all potential buyers for this new treatment.

There's been plenty of debate about whether restless legs constitute a "real" syndrome and whether sufferers really need a drug. To combat those arguments, Xenoport has data suggesting the syndrome doesn't just consist of its trademark leg twitching and restless sleep, but may be linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. And the fact is, sufferers are seeking treatment.

That's where Horizant comes in, beginning July 1, the companies say. GlaxoSmithKline will field a sales force of some 500 reps, Xenoport CEO Ron Barrett told FierceBiotech. Among their targets: The 60,000 to 70,000 primary care doctors and neurologists who now write most of the scrips for restless legs treatment.

Xenoport itself has the right to co-market the drug, but the company doesn't plan to do so right away, Barrett said. If it does decide to build up its own sales force, it would hire 50 to 100 reps to complement GSK's work. As Xconomy points out, Xenoport's share of profits varies according to how much it contributes to the partnership with GSK.

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