PHARMACY

Retail prescriptions of blockbuster drugs, promotions drop

BY Alaric DeArment

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. Drug manufacturers have toned down their spending to promote blockbuster drugs as retail prescriptions, and the number of blockbuster brands decreased, according to a report by healthcare analysis firm SDI.

Retail prescriptions grew by 2.7% last year, compared with 4.5% the year before. Generic drugs accounted for overall growth, with 11% in prescription increases in 2008 and 12% in 2007. Branded drug prescriptions, by contrast, decreased by 10% in 2008 and 5% in 2007. The period also saw a decrease in the number of blockbuster drug brands, defined by sales of $1 billion per year, from 38 in 2007 to 34 in 2008.

Consequently, according to SDI, promotional spending for blockbuster drugs has also decreased. Between 2004 and 2008, spending on promotions grew by 2% a year, but grew by 1% in 2008. Direct-to-consumer advertising saw the biggest decrease, dropping by 4% in 2007 and by 8% in 2008. The effect was especially pronounced among drugs for cholesterol, gastroesophageal reflux disease, depression and hypertension, which have experienced declines and generic competition, thereby seeing a decrease in spending on DTC advertising from 39% in 2007 to 47% in 2008.

“In our industry, manufacturers’ promotional efforts are being increasingly scrutinized internally from a budgetary and return-on-investment perspective, as well as externally on the regulatory front,” SDI COO John Ross said. “Evidence of the changes under way in promotional efforts can be seen in sales representative reductions, growing emphasis on online marketing, continued outsourcing and the deployment of new segmentation and targeting schemes that reflect the transformation that the industry is undergoing.”

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Gilead finds that investigational hypertension drug reduces blood pressure in patients

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN FRANCISCO An investigational drug reduces blood pressure in patients with resistant hypertension, results of a phase 3 clinical trial presented Friday at the American Society of Hypertension’s annual scientific meeting in San Francisco showed.

Gilead Sciences announced the presentation of data from DAR-311, a phase 3 trial of the drug darusentan. The drug, an endothelin receptor agonist, is designed as a once-daily treatment for use as part of a three-drug regimen that includes a diuretic.

“Because of the increased risk of a number of life-threatening cardiovascular conditions associated with failure to control blood pressure, including stroke and heart attack, it is essential that new therapeutic approaches be evaluated for treatment of resistant hypertension,” stated lead study author and professor of medicine at the State University of New York Downstate Medical College of Medicine. “These data are important because they showed meaningful reductions in blood pressure when darusentan was added to existing antihypertensive regimens in a very difficult-to-treat patient population.”

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Walgreens wraps up Drug Fair deal

BY Rob Eder

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens announced late Friday afternoon that it has completed the acquisition of 31 Drug Fair stores in central and western New Jersey. In March, Walgreens agreed to buy the stores in the wake of Drug Fair’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Walgreens expects to have completed store conversions “over the next few weeks,” according to a statement, including extensive remerchandising, refreshed graphics package, new signage and displays, and a shift to the Walgreens product mix and assortment, including private label. Store hours will not be affected during the transition period, the company stated. More importantly, the store makeovers will also include conversion to Walgreens’ pharmacy system, tying it into the other 6,700-plus stores in the chain, and the ability to offer pharmacist counseling and prescription labels in 14 languages.

“This will be a seamless transition for our new customers,” said Walgreens market VP Tim Anhorn. “In fact, many of the familiar faces they know and trust will continue to work at these locations. These stores will carry on the tradition of service that Drug Fair has built over more than 50 years in this region.”

In addition to the 31 Drug Fair stores it will continue to operate, Walgreens also has purchased the prescription files two other stores, one in Clifton and another in Morris Plains, N.J., which Walgreens plans to move to stores it already operates in those areas. The company said it also expects to complete transactions for two additional Drug Fair locations in the coming weeks.

With total sales of more than $340 million, including $170 million of it coming from prescription drug sales, Drug Store News had ranked Drug Fair no. 48 on its annual listing of the top 50 pharmacy retailers in America for 2008 (The Drug Store News PoweRx50 2008).

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