Ipsen on a hiring binge in U.S. to prep for new Somatuline marketing push

French company Ipsen doesn't derive much top-line firepower from the U.S.--but that's something it's looking to change. It has its eye on swelling its North American presence from 5% to 30% of its overall business by 2020, with a new indication on the way for cancer drug Somatuline that it thinks could help it get there. If the launch is right, that is.

Ipsen North America President Cynthia Schwalm

With Somatuline, Ipsen will have the opportunity to launch a "flagship brand" in the U.S. once the FDA approves a fast-tracked indication--to treat gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors--for the oncology drug, North America President Cynthia Schwalm told Medical Marketing & Media. It's an opportunity she says the company lives for, and one that could transform its North American footprint.

"How many times do you get to launch a very cool medicine with a great safety profile that helps patients in a way they haven't been helped before?," she asked MM&M.

But as Ipsen looks to break onto the scene in the U.S., it'll need a few key launch elements in place--beginning with leadership that can help it navigate a foreign marketplace. And that's a task Schwalm views as her own. "My job is as the head of a subsidiary of a French company, and a big part of it will be constantly educating about the uniqueness of this market," she told MM&M. "We're not the dominant culture."

Schwalm will need backup, too, and that's on the way, the publication notes. Ipsen is currently hiring upward of 100 workers on the continent, with plans to add 100 more during the next year.

And last but not least, it's putting a patient support program in place, too. The program, dubbed "Ipsen CARES," helps provide coverage, access, reimbursement and education support for Somatuline as well as Ipsen's other offerings. It's staffed Monday through Friday by experts who can help patients with everything from medical info to coverage logistics, the company announced earlier this week.

A good patient support program can go a long way, as companies like Israel's Teva ($TEVA) have shown. Though its injectable multiple sclerosis treatment Copaxone is facing more convenient oral challengers, customers have so far stayed more loyal than analysts expected. CNS VP of Marketing John Hassler told FiercePharmaMarketing in May that he attributes much of that loyalty to the company's "Shared Solutions" suite of 24/7 support services.

Other companies are catching on, too. Boehringer Ingelheim and Roche ($RHHBY) have both launched comprehensive patient initiatives following the same-day FDA approvals for their idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drugs, efforts they hope will help them gain an edge in the marketplace.

As for Ipsen, Schwalm says the company is gearing up to help provide care for a new crop of patients--and to "drive our presence" as it heads into launch. "We're ready," she told MM&M.

- get more from MM&M
- read the "Ipsen CARES" press release

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