Depomed's staffed-up Nucynta salesforce starts bringing home the bacon

Depomed CEO Jim Schoeneck

Depomed's ($DEPO) relaunch of the Nucynta franchise--purchased earlier this year from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)--is off to a running start, the company said last week with its Q3 earnings announcement. And it expects that momentum to carry it all the way to blockbuster-land.

Growth is "accelerating ahead of our expectations," CEO Jim Schoeneck said Nov. 9 on the company's quarterly conference call. Sales for the period reached $65 million, with scripts reversing their downward trend to grow 1% over their Q2 tally.

And the California drugmaker only expects that to continue. Nucynta will haul in more than $500 million in annual sales in 2018, it predicts, eventually exceeding the $1 billion mark before losing exclusivity.

What makes the company think so? The med is "only at the early stages of its growth curve," Schoeneck explained. For starters, the third quarter was just the first full quarter of promotion by Depomed's newly expanded sales force; the company has tripled its headcount in that department, and it now has an army of 277 reps behind the franchise--some of whom already had experience selling Nucynta with Quintiles ($Q).

"We certainly think that we vetted well when we brought people in," Schoeneck said.

In addition to staffing up, Depomed has also ramped up its medical and marketing programs, Schoeneck said. By the time 2015 closes out, it will have executed 850 speaker programs to reach thousands of potential prescribers.

But promotion isn't the only piece of the puzzle for Depomed. It's got three other pillars making up its growth strategy in positioning, patient access and proper dosing.

And if it can capitalize on all of those? Voila--blockbuster sales, Depomed figures.

"We're excited and pleased about this first wave of Nucynta's re-launch," Schoeneck said, "and even more enthused about the opportunities that lie ahead."

- read Depomed's call transcript

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