Drug: Latuda
Company: Sunovion
Use: Schizophrenia
Amount spent on doctor payments: $7 million

Sunovion has worked hard to distinguish antipsychotic med Latuda from the pack after the entire class of drugs was linked to serious side effects including weight gain. In 2011, the company touted data from a head-to-head, 12-month study that found Latuda patients actually lost weight. But the promising numbers came with a catch, as more patients dropped out of the study because of side effects such as nausea, vomiting and restless muscle movements.

In 2013, Sunovion won FDA approval to use Latuda to treat bipolar disorder, scoring a point against competitors. The med lags behind Otsuka Pharmaceutical's Abilify and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Seroquel in recently treated bipolar patients, but its patient share has still increased from Q4 2013 to Q4 2014, according to a Decision Resources report.

With the new bipolar indication, Sunovion had more information to share with doctors--and used its dollars to get in touch with physicians and teaching hospitals. During the last 5 months of 2013, the company spent $7 million on payments to docs.

Part of Sunovion's marketing strategy for Latuda involves a savings card system geared toward patients who can't afford the med. As part of the program, patients eligible for a card save money every time they fill or refill a prescription, Sunovion said on its Latuda website.

The company is also working hard to prevent generic competition to Latuda, kicking off a patent battle against Emcure Pharmaceuticals and InvaGen Pharmaceuticals over copycat versions of the drug. -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)

For more:
Sunovion lobs Latuda into crowded atypicals market
Two drugs, two price-setting tales
FDA approves Dainippon's Latuda for schizophrenia


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