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SEARLE LAUNCHING KERLONE WITH SIX MONTH "PATIENT PLUS" GIVEAWAY

Executive Summary

SEARLE LAUNCHING KERLONE WITH SIX MONTH "PATIENT PLUS" GIVEAWAY program that includes an initial 30 tablets of Kerlone (betaxolol hydrochloride) free of charge plus educational materials and two vouchers, one for an additional 60 tablets and one for 90 tablets of the new once-a-day beta-blocker. The vouchers are redeemable through any pharmacist. "The Patient Plus program enables physicians to bring their newly diagnosed hypertensive patients, and those who have tried other medications, a half a year's therapy of Kerlone at no cost," the Monsanto subsidiary said in a May 15 announcement. Physicians can enroll patients in the giveaway program through Aug. 31. Searle has set up a toll-free number to handle physician and pharmacist inquiries, 1-800-KERLONE. Searle was one of the first companies to establish a giveaway program for needy patients. Initiated with Calan SR, the giveaway was later expanded to other Searle drugs as the "Patient In Need" program. Kerlone, however, is the first Searle product to be launched with a giveaway. Patient Plus, which applies to all patients and not just indigents, signals Searle's determination to break into the long-established and highly competitive beta-blocker market. Medicaid patients are eligible for the program, whether or not Kerlone is on their states' Medicaid formulary, and the program will also be offered through managed healthcare plans. The antihypertensive is also being added to Searle's "Patient Promise" program, which refunds the cost of a patient's most recent prescription if a Searle product does not achieve its intended therapeutic benefit. Searle is touting the once-a-day cardioselective beta-blocker's convenience, bioavailability, and "favorable side effect profile," with the most commonly reported side effects being transient bradycardia, headache, dizziness and fatigue. The drug was approved by FDA Oct. 30 with a therapeutic rating of 3C (little or no therapeutic gain over existing therapies) ("The Pink Sheet" Nov. 6, T&G-4). Searle began shipping the product to wholesalers the first week of April. The average wholesale price (AWP) is $54.32 for a 100-tablet bottle of 10 mg tablets and $81.47 for 100 20 mg tablets. Kerlone is "currently priced substantially below the market leader," ICI's one-a-day Tenormin (atenolol), Searle states. The current listed AWP for Tenormin is $67.91 per hundred 50 mg tablets and $101.83 for a 100-tablet bottle of the 100 mg tabs. Searle estimates the giveaway will cost the firm approximately $120 per patient for the six month supply of the drug. Ads for Kerlone, which will mention the Patient Plus program, will start running in approximately 30 medical journals in the last week of May and first week in June. The firm has held discussions with pharmacy groups and physicians likely to treat hypertension at recent professional meetings to familiarize them with the upcoming program.
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