Regular readers of this blog know how often I have berated Sepracor about its Lunesta ad campaign tactics. Over the months I have made many criticisms of Sepracor’s marketing efforts:

I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when I read in BrandWeek that “Sepracor will ‘refresh’ its consumer marketing for sleep drug Lunesta in early 2007…” (see “Lunesta To Get Wakeup Effort in New Year“).

The article continues: “In a note to investors just before Christmas, Merrill Lynch’s Gregg Gilbert wrote that Lunesta’s marketing, advertising and promotional materials will be changed early in the new year to reflect positive results from studies of the drug in people with depression, anxiety and menopause. No further details on the campaign were given.”

Not only will the ads change, but the Speracor marketing department is also in flux, according to BrandWeek: “…there has been a change in leadership in Sepracor’s marketing department. Marketing chief Timothy Healey left the Marlborough, Mass., company recently to take a post at Advanced Magnetics in Cambridge, Mass.”

I don’t know if that’s a step up or down, but Mr. Healey may miss out on a great opportunity; namely, a buyout of Speracor by Pfizer. At least that’s the rumor. No replacement for Healey has been named, according to BrandWeek.

The anticipated changes of the Lunesta ad message, in which insomnia is related to serious and prevasive medical conditions like depression and menopause, parallels a similar shift in ads for erectile dysfuntion, which link that condition to the more serious medical problems of diabetes and high blood pressure.

I haven’t looked at the data supporting the incidence of insomnia among depressed people and women in menopause, but I suspect the shift is being made primarily because the old message — you’re too worried about your work — has not worked. At least not well enough to distinguish Lunesta from the market leader Ambien and AmbienCR, which together still command 53% of the insomnia market vs. Lunesta’s 13%.

The Numbers Don’t Add Up
BTW, I got these market share numbers from BrandWeek, which appears to have gotten them from Merrill Lynch who got them form… I dunno! If we add up the Ambien and Lunesta market share numbers, we get 66%, which leaves 34% to Rozerem and Sonata, the other drugs in the insomnia category. Sonata must be a minor player, so the bulk of that 34% must represent Rozerem’s market share according to these numbers.

But there’s something clearly wrong here. As I reported in a previous post to this blog, according to Wolters Kluwer, “from March through August 2006, Rozerem sales grew to $38 million, capturing a 1.9 percent market share” (see “Rozerem Ads Innovatively Ineffectual“). I cannot reconcile 1.9% with 34%. Perhaps readers have better numbers for us.

If Lunesta is changing its advertising to help it surpass the 13% market share number, then Rozerem surely should follow suit to break through its pitiful 2-3% market share barrier. I am waiting for that other shoe to drop.

Update on Insomnia Market Share Data
P.S. Jim Edwards, Senior Editor at BrandWeek was kind enough to send me the following information regarding the market share data for various drugs used to treat insomnia. Jim said:

Here’s the text of ML’s take on insomnia market share:

Lunesta TRx’s were 136,173 for an 11.6% share of the sleep agent market (up
10 b.p. wk/wk). Refills accounted for 43% of TRx. Based on $82 per TRx,
Lunesta end-user sales are annualizing at roughly $580.6 million. Rolling
4-week TRx growth for the market was down 70 b.p. to 10.2%.

Lunesta NRx’s were 78,011 for a 12.5% share of the sleep agent market (up 10
b.p. wk/wk). Sanofi’s Ambien CR NRx share was up 40 b.p. to 17.3%, Ambien
NRx share was down 10 b.p. to 35.9%, King’s Sonata NRx share was up 4 b.p.
to 1.92%, Takeda’s Rozerem NRx share was up 1 b.p. to 2.57%, temazepam NRx
share was up 10 b.p. to 10.7%, and trazodone NRx share was down 50 b.p. to
15.3%. Rolling 4-week NRx growth for the market was down 50 b.p. to 5.0%
yr/yr (vs. roughly 7.2%-8.0% prior to Lunesta launch)

I used some of this data to create this chart of Market Share based on New Prescriptions (NRx):