Watson's Strategy for Beating the Big Boys
Watson's launch of incontinence drug Oxytrol illustrates the opportunities and challenges specialty pharma companies face when they try to move into primary care markets dominated by Big Pharma. Watson's added a whole set of Big Pharma-experienced managers and is betting that their expertise can guide it through the intimidating process of selecting and launching products. Even so, launching a product into primary care markets requires a commitment that stresses resources and changes the corporate culture.
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Many start-ups are developing diabetes drugs based on known targets which could attract Big Pharma partners and get to the clinic quickly, while a few invest in novel compounds that are either riskier or address the field's smaller subsets. Among the former are Phenomix, Plexxikon, CareX and Prosidion; among the latter are DiaKine, and DiaMedica. In all cases, these companies are looking to partner with Big Pharma, which is aggressively pursuing small-molecule drugs for diabetes.
Endo believes its specialist approach to pain management is key to eventually winning over a respectable market share in primary care, given that it can successfully differentiate Frova, the sixth-in-class migraine treatment it licensed from Vernalis in July 2004. Skeptics point to the failure of previous owners of Frova to gain the drug any primary care notice since its launch in mid-2002. Endo chairman and CEO Carol Ammon contends that the company can inexpensively exploit the unique characteristics of the drug in the medical community and succeed where others have failed through a singular focus on specialist medicine that she claims as its bailiwick.