Monday, April 2, 2012

Do We Feel Bad for the Drug Reps?

Pharma-watchers know that rare diseases are all the rage these days. With primary-care blockbusters falling to generic competition, drugmakers are zeroing in on ultra-expensive treatments for conditions that affect only a few hundred patients, rather than millions of them. And companies don't just benefit from the ability to command high prices. They also save on sales reps and ad campaigns.

For pharma sales reps, it may seem like adding insult to injury, after the past several years of mass layoffs. But as Medical Marketing & Media reports, companies won't be staffing up much to launch rare-disease drugs. Take Corcept Therapeutics ($CORT), now preparing to roll out its Cushing's syndrome drug Korlym. "I don't have to hire an army of sales reps," Corcept VP Steven Lo tellsMM&M.

Instead, Corcept will target just 300 endocrinologists to reach the 5,000 or so Cushing's patients Korlym could benefit (of the total 20,000 in the U.S.). Those 300 doctors handle 70% of Cushing's cases in the U.S., Lo says. Corcept will send out medical liaisons, supported by professional advertising and CME. An agency that specializes in orphan and specialty meds will handle advertising to patients and online.

Korlym will no doubt benefit from another advantage that rare-disease drugs usually enjoy: They have no competitors. Cushing's patients who haven't benefited from surgery don't have other drugs to turn to. It will be Korlym or nothing. At what price has yet to be seen; Corcept hasn't yet said how much it will charge for the drug.

Read more: Rare-disease drugs won't help out-of-work pharma reps - FiercePharma