Endo ends Stendra marketing pact, leaving Vivus in the lurch

Vivus ($VVUS) has struggled with obesity med Qsymia without a marketing partner. And now, it's about to be one short in that department on erectile dysfunction treatment Stendra, too.

Last week, Endo's ($ENDP) Auxilium Pharmaceuticals announced in a regulatory filing that it would be terminating its licensing pact with Vivus, which covers the U.S. and Canada. With 6 months' notice required to nix the agreement, that puts its end date at June 30 of this year.

According to Vivus CEO Seth Fischer, Endo's decision centered on focusing company resources on new product Belbuca, a long-term opioid film approved by the FDA in late October to treat patients with severe chronic pain. But in its Q3 earnings filing, Endo also acknowledged that it had "experienced underperformance with respect to Stendra," in part thanks to a "sustained downturn" in the market for short-acting testosterone replacement therapies.

It didn't take long for Endo to turn sour on its Stendra plans. Just this May, it announced plans to relaunch the drug later in Q2, with a new contract sales organization in tow to more than double Endo's rep tally and a targeted DTC effort underway.

Meanwhile, Endo's decision to return rights to Vivus will leave the California company in the lurch. The drugmaker already has its hands full with Qsymia, and it whittled its rep total from 150 down to just 50 last year in an attempt to conserve spending.

And it's relying on revenues from Stendra to help foot its bills, too. In Q3, the company tallied just $25 million in sales, but it has yet to start up a required cardiovascular safety trial for Qsymia that could run it $200 million-plus. And on top of that, it's staring down $300 million in debt.

Of course, Auxilium isn't the only one generating Stendra revenues. Vivus also boasts marketing partnerships with Sanofi ($SNY) and Menarini to hawk the drug outside the U.S.--agreements it inked after its decision to go it alone with obesity therapy Qsymia ignited a proxy war.

And Fischer is still optimistic about Stendra's future, promising last week to make an announcement by the end of 2016's first quarter as to how the company plans to take the drug forward.

"With Stendra's 15 minute onset-of-action, efficacy, ability to be taken with food and alcohol, and safety profile, we remain confident in Stendra's long-term prospects," he said in a statement.

- see Endo's 8-K
- read Vivus' release

Special Reports: Limited attention span? Focus on these market shake-ups in 2015 | 10 top drug launch disasters