Digging deeper into Eisai’s plans to double its salesforce for BELVIQ
Mumbai, India -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/01/2013 -- San Diego, California-headquartered Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARNA) and its partner Eisai Inc. (ESALY) have set out aggressive plans for BELVIQ, their drug aimed at the chronic weight management space. On October 15th, Arena reported that Eisai would be expanding its salesforce for BELVIQ to approximately 400 reps. by December 2013, effectively doubling the count. The move could either indicate that BELVIQ is gaining widespread popularity among physicians and health plans or as a boost in light of declining sales.
The key feature making BELVIQ stand out is that it is believed to work by decreasing food consumption and promoting satiety by selectively activating serotonin 2c receptors in the hypothalamus. In simple words, Arena believes that it makes people ‘feel full’. The feeling of fullness takes away cravings of eating more and when you do eat, you tend to eat less. BELVIQ also holds claim to the title of being the first anti-obesity drug to be approved by the FDA in 13 years in the U.S.
Eisai, Arena’s marketing and distribution partner in North and South America, has launched aggressive campaigns to promote BELVIQ. In print advertising, ads have been placed promoting it in Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light, Redbook, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine. Other initiatives include a dedicated BELVIQ website and the launch of Lose It!, an app designed to track calorie count.
At its Q1 earnings call in August, Eisai claimed that even before BELVIQ had been launched for medical professionals and the general public, it had received a lot of attention thanks to the media publicity on TV and radio. It was also talked about extensively in major newspapers and local papers. Eisai also claimed that over 300 million people were reached due to just news coverage of BELVIQ. They went on to say that another indicator of the nationwide interest in the BELVIQ obesity treatment was the large number of people across the U.S. accessing the website, which was more than they had expected. Speaking at Arena’s Q2 results call, CEO Jack Lief said that since its launch, BELVIQ.com had more than 100,000 unique visits to the healthcare professionals section.
On the patent front, Arena’s Craig Audet had stated at the NewsMakers in the Biotech Industry Conference this September that they had global patent coverage till 2023 and were confident of extending that to 2026 and even beyond.
Importantly, regarding prescriptions, BELVIQ prescriptions had seen steady growth after shipments to distributors began. Eisai reported that according to IMS data, in the week of July 19th, the sixth week since its launch, prescriptions grew 15% week-on-week to reach 2840. Also, according to Symphony estimates, at week six, 3326 prescriptions were written and since the launch at week six, around 3900 doctors had written BELVIQ prescriptions. Every week about 650 new doctors had started prescribing BELVIQ with the base of prescribing doctors steadily growing.
The latest update from Eisai as of the 1st of November was that BELVIQ sales were at $9 million for the six months ended September 30th.
Along with partnering with Eisai in North and South America, Arena also has tie-ups with Ildong Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. for South Korea and with CY Biotech Company Ltd. for Taiwan. Arena manufactures BELVIQ at its manufacturing plant in Switzerland, mainly due to certain tax holidays it receives there.
Further updates on how BELVIQ has been faring could be expected on Thursday, November 7, 2013 when Arena Pharmaceuticals reports its Q3 2013 results. Eisai would be reporting Q2 2013 results on the 1s of November.
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