How do you solve a problem? Maybe the answer is to throw some money at it. That seems to be the approach Schering-Plough is taking to dealing with the drop in Zetia prescriptions - a 3.8 percent drop in total scrips compared with the same period a year ago and a whopping 17 percent compared with late last year, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan.
Why the decline? You may recall that the controversial Enhance trial found that its Vytorin cholesterol pill failed to show any benefit over the much cheaper Zocor in reducing plaque in the carotid artery, and even showed a statistically insignificant buildup, although it did a better job of lowering LDL. The results created a debate about the merits of using Vyotrin, which includes Schering-Plough's Zetia and Merck's Zocor.
To cope, Schering-Plough has created a '49 plan,' according to sources who contacted us. For 49 days, or seven long weeks, the drugmaker's sales reps are supposed to schmooze docs - preferably over lunch or dinner - in hopes of convincing them that Zetia is worth prescribing. Over at CafePharma, some reps don't think it will work:
"This is another version of increasing share of voice (SOV) in hopes of increasing prescriptions. Right from the 1990's Big Pharma Playbook. The theory is that if we pound the message enough, doctors will write. We have lost the trust of doctors. It is not the message, but until there is DATA showing that Zetia reduces CV events and mortality, doctors will say that we are just spewing the same old shit, and get even more pissed," one wrote.
A Schering-Plough spokesman writes to say that the drugmaker "has a number of ongoing sales force programs in place to help representatives correct misimpressions and mischaracterizations of Zetia and Vytorin recently presented in the media. While it is Schering-Plough policy not to discuss it’s the details of specific marketing programs, all Schering-Plough programs are in strict compliance with PhRMA guidelines."