Big competitors don’t scare Drew Fromkin. The CEO of Clinical Data says that the small Newton, MA-based drug developer (NASDAQ:CLDA) is willing to take on industry giants in the multibillion-dollar U.S. market for antidepressants.
The company sent in its application for approval of its experimental antidepressant, vilazodone, to the FDA in late March. It’s too early to tell whether the agency will approve the company’s application to start selling the drug in the U.S., but if Clinical Data can pass FDA scrutiny, it could have its first drug on the market by early 2011, Fromkin says.
Clinical Data is open to forming partnerships with larger drug companies to potentially co-market vilazodone, but the scrappy firm is preparing to market the product on its own in the U.S. if need be, Fromkin says. The go-it-alone strategy would pit Clinical Data, which has about 160 employees, against pharmaceutical behemoths such as Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), London-based GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), and New York-based Pfizer (NYSE:PFE).
Fromkin, however, doesn’t think that Clinical Data would have to match the marketing might of large players in the $12 billion U.S. market for antidepressants.
With a lean sales force of about 150 people, the CEO says, the company could focus on specialty physicians such as psychiatrists who prescribe most of the antidepressants in the country. In fact, he adds, 13 percent of U.S. doctors who prescribe the drugs order about 70 percent of the prescriptions for antidepressants, meaning his firm wouldn’t have to call on the bigger pool of general practitioners and primary care doctors who write prescriptions to target those who order the most scripts. Also, he’s expecting some major companies in the market to reduce their sales efforts for drugs that no longer have patent protections, leaving them open to competition from generic drugs that cost less.
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