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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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November 29, 2012

When Drug Launches Go Bad

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Posted by Derek

For those connoisseurs of things that have gone wrong, here's a list of the worst drug launches of recent years. And there are some rough ones in there, such as Benlysta, Provenge, and (of course) Makena. And from an aesthetic standpoint, it's hard not to think that if you name your drug Krystexxa that you deserve what you get. Read up and try to avoid being part of such a list yourself. . .

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Drug Development | Drug Industry History | Drug Prices


1. benoxiprofen on November 29, 2012 2:52 PM writes...

benoxaprofen set records for the worst product launch in its day

but a billion dollar loss isn't what it used to be.

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2. Anonymous on November 29, 2012 3:22 PM writes...

How come Exubera didn't make the list?

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3. Hap on November 29, 2012 4:02 PM writes...

2: If you stick a small paper sail on a brick and try to sail it on the ocean, it's still not going to float or go anywhere, no matter how you launch it (unless it's out of a cannon, perhaps, and even then, it still won't float, but just sink further away). Exubera's problem was in its substance (too expensive, inconvenient apparatus, lung impairment) and not in its selling.

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4. toxchick on November 29, 2012 4:05 PM writes...

I was also looking for Exubera on the list! It gets an honorary mention.

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5. petros on November 30, 2012 8:53 AM writes...

Exubera was a glaring omission. Trawling through Pfizer's SEC filings identified the recognised cost to Pfizer as several billion dollars

Benoxaprofen was a development disaster but was the cost really that high back then.

It would be interesting to know what the cost of the failure of Accomplia was too

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6. Hap on November 30, 2012 10:07 AM writes...

Was there a way to have made Exubera successful? If Pfizer had priced it comparably to injected insulin, they would have gotten better insurance acceptance and more market share, but they still would have had to deal with the lung impairment consequent to its use and the awkward delivery system (oh, and the cancer scare, too).

I don't think a proper launch could have made Exubera work - its substance was wrong, not its marketing. I would guess that that is why Exubera was not on the list - it was a bigger failure than everything on the list, but the failure wasn't due to its launch.

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7. newnickname on December 3, 2012 7:54 PM writes...

@benoxiprofen: Oraflex was THE FASTEST and most successful drug launch in history (number of Rx's filled) until superseded by subsequent launches.

Eli Lilly, The Ethical Drug Company, promoted the drug, before launch, with celebrity interviews and endorsements and other forms of disguised DTC advertising on TV, radio and in print media (Reader's Digest, etc.). DTC was not yet legal so they had to disguise ads as "news" via free and impressive press kits and (paid) "interviews" and such. Patients were asking their physicians for Oraflex before the docs even knew what Oraflex was!

What goes up, must come down.

Oraflex launched in May '82 and was off the market in August '82. The criminal indictments came soon after.

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8. michael hart on December 4, 2012 5:19 PM writes...

Until last year I still had a brightly coloured hand-towel bearing the name "Opren" (as benoxiprofen was marketed in the UK). I got it from my Uncle/Aunt, a Doctor/Pharmacist couple, via the "drug-lunch" pathway. :)

I can attest that, by luck or design, the hand-towel was made to a far higher standard than the product it advertised. I used to take it rock-climbing to wipe the soles of my boots, and the colours showed very little sign of fading over the years. I feel quite nostalgic now I realise that I have probably lost it.

BTW Nice blog, Derek, I'm glad to have just discovered it. It reminds me of some Medicinal Chemistry I am in danger of forgetting.

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