Pharma

Change of heart: Why Pozen now wants to partner its cardiovascular drug

Digital drug marketing has been pharmaceutical company Pozen‘s (NASDAQ:POZN) mantra for much of this year. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based company has made clear that when it goes to market with its new cardiovascular drug, a digital strategy will dictate its reach to patients and physicians in ways that traditional pharmaceutical sales representatives have not […]

Digital drug marketing has been pharmaceutical company Pozen‘s (NASDAQ:POZN) mantra for much of this year. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based company has made clear that when it goes to market with its new cardiovascular drug, a digital strategy will dictate its reach to patients and physicians in ways that traditional pharmaceutical sales representatives have not done.

Pozen isn’t backing off of the digital component but it is changing its strategy. While Pozen has already commercialized two other drugs, those products are marketed by drug partners AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK). PA32540, developed to prevent cardiovascular disease in patients at risk for ulcers, was to be the first product Pozen commercialized on its own. But now Pozen is seeking a drug partner for PA32540.

“It really comes down to how we can maximize the asset,” Chief Commercial Officer Liz Cermak said in a conference call with analysts. “We’re a little company with a limited amount of resources.”

Cermak had raised the point of limited resources as being a reason in favor of a digital strategy enabling Pozen to take PA32540 to market on its own. Last winter, Cermak said that as a small company Pozen could not support a drug with a large sales force. Digital marketing, which does not call for a large salesforce, was supposed to enable tiny Pozen to market PA32540 on its own. But on Monday, Pozen announced it had contracted with consulting firm Keelin Reeds Partners to find a U.S. drug partner for PA32540.

So what’s changed?

First of all,  Pozen isn’t backing off of its digital plans. While the company’s digital talk has yet to result in a formal digital strategy, the company has taken the step of assembling a digital advisory board comprised of heavyweights from the retail sector as well as the healthcare industry. Cermak said that the board’s insight into digital marketing would apply to PA32540.

But Pozen looked at long term marketing of the drug. CEO John Plachetka said that PA32540 would start with interventional cardiologists, a small group of specialists that Pozen would be able to manage. But as patients managed their conditions, they would move to general practice physicians. Pozen would have a harder time handling the larger group.

“We think there’s a different way we can amplify this by finding someone who’s got that broad reach,” Plachetka said.

Bringing PA32540 to market on its own would have allowed Pozen to have more control of the marketing as well as all of the revenue from the drug. Right now, AstraZeneca and GSK control marketing for arthritis drug Vimovo and migraine treatment Treximet respectively. Pozen’s revenue comes in the form of royalty payments that the drug partners pay to Pozen. Earlier this year, Pozen acknowledged it was troubled by slow sales of Vimovo, whose sales and marketing is entirely under AstraZeneca’s control. Plachetka said Pozen in its next partnership, it’s looking to have more control. Pozen wants a partner who would help the company market its drug rather than leading the charge, he said.

Pozen is on schedule to file a new drug application for PA32540 in the second half of 2012. There’s still time to find the right partner. Pozen may need it. Last month, Pozen’s digital panel held a video conference roundtable. The panel’s consensus was that the pharma industry as a whole has not yet come far enough in digital marketing of drugs.