Time is running out before generics descend on Nexium, the stomach drug that rakes in nearly $4 billion a year for AstraZeneca ($AZN). And in an effort to conserve sales, the British drugmaker is going where it's gone once before: a direct-to-patient delivery program it hopes will keep customers in its grasp.
It's not uncharted territory for AZ, which launched Arimidex Direct in 2012 to provide its off-patent breast cancer therapy via Express Scripts ($ESRX) for $40 per month. The company later added a "how to" enrollment video and a digital badge users could share via social media. More than 1,000 patients have enrolled in the program, AstraZeneca spokeswoman Stephanie Andrzejewski told FiercePharmaMarketing in an email.
But the direct delivery model hasn't always worked as well as companies might hope. In 2012, Pfizer ($PFE) nixed the direct delivery aspect of Lipitor For You, a program that also offered a $4 copay and healthy heart tips, tools and recipes for patients eager to stay on the best-selling cholesterol drug after it went off-patent.
"It was a mutual decision between Pfizer and the pharmacy," Pfizer spokesman MacKay Jimeson told FiercePharmaMarketing of the move to cut out home delivery, which he called a fairly novel concept at the time. "Despite the success of Lipitor For You overall, patient interest in the program just had not met our expectations."
But that didn't stop Pfizer from turning to direct delivery again shortly thereafter with Viagra. It now provides a direct-to-patient system complete with online ordering as a discreet, safe and trusted option for patients of the oft-counterfeited erectile dysfunction drug.
"Viagra, frankly, was an evolution of this, and I think we learned a lot from the original Lipitor experience to improve the Viagra home delivery options," he said.
AZ hopes its second direct-delivery program will score with its patients, too. With Nexium Direct, Nexium users can have 30- or 90-day supplies of the drug delivered straight to their front doors. Patients can sign up online and forward their doctors' prescriptions, with a 24-hour support team on hand to help. And Eagle Pharmacy, which will take care of the orders, will automatically process the standard Nexium co-pay savings for eligible patients, meaning the max that most commercially insured patients will have to pay for the branded drug comes out to $25 per month.
"The goal for Nexium Direct is to give patients choice and convenience," Andrzejewski said. "Nexium Direct provides patients with the option to have branded Nexium delivered to their homes; it also gives physicians a convenient way to prescribe the AstraZeneca brand they believe is right for their patients."
- read AstraZeneca's release
Special Report: Top 10 drug patent losses of 2014 - Nexium