Valeant touts Salix sales-force scale-up amid rumors of mass rep exit

Valeant has scaled up its Salix sales force by 40%.

Valeant doesn’t want its investors to get the wrong idea. While talk on the street says 50 of its GI reps have bailed out, the embattled drugmaker says it’s ready to go with a newly bulked-up marketing army.

The Canadian pharma has “rapidly scaled up” its Salix force “by nearly 40%, effective immediately,” it said Monday, adding that it has hired about 250 “highly trained and experienced sales force representatives and managers” over the past three months and boosted its pain rep numbers, too.

It’s a move the company says will help it reach more primary care physicians it has tagged as “key potential prescribers” of IBS-D med Xifaxan and opioid-induced constipation therapy Relistor. “With approximately 70% of IBS-D patients initially presenting with symptoms to a primary care physician, the dedicated PCP sales force will be positioned to reach even more patients in need of IBS-D treatment,” Valeant said.

Expanding its reach to a greater number of PCPs has been Valeant’s plan since late last year, when a dashing of its potential $10 billion deal to sell Salix to Takeda left the company with no choice but to try to grow the struggling unit itself.

But last week, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris wrote to clients that more than 50 GI reps had jumped ship to join Synergy Pharmaceuticals, which won FDA approval in January for constipation med Trulance. Valeant confirmed to Maris that “a number of salespeople have left,” but it wouldn’t say how many. Synergy, for its part, said only that it had been “very successful in hiring a large number” of experienced salespeople, many with 10-plus years in the business.

With that new competition on the block, Valeant bolstered its pain rep tally “to strengthen its position in the OIC market,” the company said Monday. It’s not stopping there, also establishing a nurse educator team to educate clinical staff within what it deems “top institutions.”

Valeant will have to turn its Salix business around if it hopes to stage a comeback from the pricing pushback, fraud allegations, debt-default concerns and poor sales that have plagued it over the last year and a half. Xifaxan is the company’s top-selling product, and along with its fellow GI portfolio treatments, it’s been underperforming.

Things haven’t gotten much better lately, despite the new plans for growth. Recent prescription trends on Xifaxan and Valeant’s overall GI franchise “have shown weakness,” Maris wrote to clients.