Trimeris, Roche To Launch Consumer Advertising Campaign To Boost Demand for Fuzeon
Durham, N.C.-based drug maker Trimeris on Wednesday announced that it plans to launch a consumer advertising campaign to boost weaker-than-expected sales of its antiretroviral drug Fuzeon, the Raleigh News & Observer reports (Vollmer, Raleigh News & Observer, 10/16). Fuzeon, which is in a new class of drugs called fusion inhibitors and was approved by the FDA in March, has encountered resistance from doctors and patients because of its high cost and injection delivery method. The drug costs about $20,000 per patient per year -- double the price of the next most expensive HIV treatments currently on the market. The drug is designed for HIV/AIDS patients who have failed to respond to other medications (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/16). Trimeris' promotional efforts for Fuzeon initially targeted physicians, but the company has since recognized the importance of "convincing patients the drug is important," Walter Capone, vice president of communications for Trimeris, said, according to the News & Observer. As a result, Trimeris and Roche, Trimeris' marketing partner for the drug, are planning what they call a "grassroots" promotional campaign to boost demand for the drug. The campaign will include promotional brochures that will be made available to HIV-positive people at HIV/AIDS outreach and support groups, conferences for nurses caring for HIV/AIDS patients and targeted newspaper advertising campaigns.
Trimeris' Financial Situation
Trimeris' announcement of the new advertising campaign for Fuzeon came after the company announced disappointing third-quarter financial results, the News & Observer reports (Raleigh News & Observer, 10/16). Fuzeon has generated only $18.91 million in sales worldwide, according to Reuters (Reuters, 10/16). In addition, the number of new Fuzeon prescriptions written per month fell by half to about 500 during July, August and September of this year, during which time the company stock lost half of its value, according to Trimeris (Raleigh News & Observer, 10/16). Roche Chair and CEO Franz Humer on Thursday said the company "continues to believe in the prospects" of Fuzeon. He added that Roche is "making progress on getting reimbursement for the product and increasing patient awareness of the drug," according to Reuters. According to Humer, Roche "always expected a slow but steady buildup" of demand for the drug, Reuters reports (Reuters, 10/16).