Friday, February 09, 2007

Rozerem DTC Emperor (Still) Has No Clothes

I have written about the Rozerem advertising debacle repeatedly, pointing out how inane it is and worse, how it has been ineffectual in helping the brand gain market share.

This point of view is not radical. It's shared by many experts and journalists who write on the subject, although they have to report that the emperor has a wonderful suit of clothes on.

Take, for example, the short article "For Rozerem DTC Campaign, it's steady as she goes" in the February, 2007 issue of MM&M, an industry publication I greatly admire.

"CONSUMERS WILL see more of Honest Abe this year, despite lackluster sales of Rozerem," says MM&M. The article goes on to quote Paul Broidy, director of neuroscience marketing for Takeda Pharmaceutical NA: "If there's a theme,it's steady growth and keeping the strategy that we have."

IMHO, this "circle the wagons", "stay the course" approach may be politically correct and is probably the only course of action available to someone who was responsible for the strategy in the first place (I'm talking about Paul Broidy, not someone else).

Maybe it's time for a change in leaders?

And trade publications and journalists continue to drink their Kool Aid! MM&M isn't the only one I'm thinking of. See "Rozerem Ads Innovatively Ineffectual" for another example of jingo-pharma journalism.

Each time such a Rozerem story appears a new nail is added to the coffin if only people were to look at the numbers instead of the rhetoric. In the MM&M article you can find total retail sales numbers and DTC media spend numbers for the major insomnia brands. Using these numbers, I came up with the ROI plot shown on the left. [If you need to know how I calculated this from the published numbers, submit a comment to this blog.]

Aside from the Rozerem DTC campaign being in negative territory -- something I noticed several months ago -- it has not even been able to get Rozerem sales above that of Sonata for which "no [DTC] spend was detected! For the July to November, 2006 period Rozerem retails sales were $37.15 million whereas the Sonata sales during the same period was $38.91 million!

I'm not yet ready to say that all DTC is ineffectual -- after all, both the Lunesta and Ambien CR campaigns seem to be able to muster positive ROIs. But don't you think your strategy needs reworking if your campaign is in negative territory?

Let's finally admit that the emperor has no clothes!

P.S. New shows that Rozerem's DTC ROI is even deeper in negative territory than I estimated (see "Rozerem Ad Spending Exceeds Sales!").


  1. Anonymous6:25 AM

    Another issue that is impacting RX rates for Rozerem is the fact than a majority of insurance companies require prior authorization for this medication. Many times these authorizations require failure on two other agents. In my experience, the average prior auth process requires 20-25 minutes of staff time-- not including the time it takes to listen to the patient complain about the doctor not knowing that he or she could not get the medication.

    From a practical side, DTC advertising doesn't work well if prescribers have to jump through hoops to get the medication into the hands of patients---especially when effective alternatives exist.

    In my view, money would be better spent in removing the obstacles to getting the pills in the hands of patients versus trying to drive demand for a medication that is perceived, both by doctors and patients, to be a pain in the butt to prescribe.

  2. Are you quite sure of that? Why is prior auth needed for this sleep aid and not others? Rozerem is supposed to be the only non-narcotic sedative -- hence the Big 0 in its campaigns. If it requires prior auth, then so would its competitors, meaning it is not at a disadvantage in that regard with its competitors.

  3. Anonymous6:15 AM

    Sorry for the delay... but yes-- many of the Blue plans have it on prior approval with the requirement that folks have failed on another med.

    I personally have to do several auths a week. I rarely have to do an auth for one of the other medications indicated for insomnia.

    I know it does not make sense...I know it is the only non-narcotic out there for that indication. Our doctors like it because of that. I may see more of this because the docs like trying this with patients they don't know so well. However, I know I am asked to call in a number of narcotic sleep agents and those have little or no problem with getting filled.

    I'm just telling you what is happening in the field. I think the company just has not done the needed work to get the medications on the preferred forumularys of various plans-- mostly the blues.

  4. I live in Japan, where many pharma companies are now experimenting with DTC advertising and of course struggling to prove ROI, especially because their messages cannot be branded. Rozerem is not on the market in Japan, but it would be interesting to see what Takeda does here if/when it launches, building on their US experience in this area. Right now Sanofi-Aventis and partner Astellas are doing some local DTC with Ambien (local name Myslee):

  5. Rozerem is under Lunesta in the graphic, it is a bad new, I like more Rozerem, the have to be more careful with the marketing in Japan, may be it could help a lot.


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