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Titan Pharmaceuticals and Indegene: Partnering for the Post-COVID Landscape

27 Jul 2020

Titan Pharmaceuticals' Sunil Bhonsle and Indegene's Jamie Peck talk about their new partnership and how it will move forward in the post-COVID environment.

Last month, Titan Pharmaceuticals (San Francisco, CA) entered into a co-promotion partnership with healthcare solutions company Indegene to establish multichannel digital marketing programs throughout the US and expand the capabilities for the engagement of healthcare providers who are eligible to prescribe Titan’s Probuphine (buprenorphine) implant 2016 for the maintenance treatment of opioid addiction in eligible patients.

Pharm Exec recently spoke to Sunil Bhonsle, President and CEO, Titan Pharmaceuticals, and Jamie Peck, Vice President, Co-Commercialization at Indegene, about the details of this partnership and how it will move forward in the post-COVID environment.

Pharm Exec: Can you explain what Probuphine is and where you are on the commercialization journey?

Sunil Bhonsle, Titan Pharmaceuticals: One of the major challenges in treating chronic diseases is patient adherence to medication. Our proprietary subdermal implant technology, ProNeura, provides a way for long-term and continuous drug delivery of certain compounds to address this issue quite effectively. The ProNeura implant consists of a small, solid rod made from a mixture of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and a drug substance. The resulting product is a solid matrix that is placed subdermally, normally in the inner part of the upper arm in a simple office procedure, and is removed in a similar manner at the end of the treatment period. By providing continuous, stable blood levels of medication for many months the ProNeura subdermal implant helps assure adherence to the treatment, and has the potential to offer several other benefits such as safety, efficacy and tolerability resulting from long-term, non–fluctuating drug exposure.

In the US, Titan is commercializing the first FDA-approved ProNeura technology based product, Probuphine (buprenorphine) implant for the long-term maintenance treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) in eligible patients who are stable on a low to moderate daily oral dose of buprenorphine. Probuphine provides six months of treatment following the insertion of the implants, assuring patient adherence to medication which may minimize the risk of drug diversion or misuse. This product is also approved in Canada and the European Union. Titan has already established partnerships with other pharmaceutical companies to commercialize Probuphine in these territories.

How has the COVID pandemic affected Titan, how it does business, and how it connects with healthcare providers and patients?

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly disrupted the business environment, especially the availability of healthcare services and medical treatments for the OUD patients. Activities of our sales team have been restricted due to shelter-in-place requirements and travel restrictions, and many clinics have been temporarily closed for the same reason. We have switched to predominantly virtual contacts with the healthcare providers (HCPs) and, in addition, recently the FDA has approved our HCP training and certification procedures that were modified to utilize remote training tools and allow us to service the health clinics, as needed, during this pandemic. With COVID-19, comes the increased use of telemedicine to provide medication assisted treatment to OUD patients; accordingly, we are adapting our own business practices.

Can you outline the objectives of your new partnership with Indegene and say how that fits in with your wider digital vision for the company?

For a small pharmaceutical company it makes perfect sense to partner with a company like Indegene and capitalize on their digital infrastructure to build long term virtual pathways for disseminating drug information and interacting with the medical community in this changing healthcare ecosystem.

Indegene is an accomplished player in digitally-enabled product commercialization activities. We have engaged with them to use their multichannel marketing platform to increase awareness for our product, Probuphine, and rapidly identify HCPs who have patients that could benefit from long term maintenance treatment of OUD, an epidemic in the US with more than 2.5 million patients needing treatment for this disease. This partnership will help us build a more efficient system of interaction with the medical community, especially at a time of limited mobility.

During COVID and beyond, what are the best practices for connecting and communicating digitally with HCPs and patients?

Jamie Peck, Indegene: The proper lens to look at this dynamic through is actually what was happening Pre-COVID, I’d say in the last 6–8 years. Some data indicates that up to 40% of HCPs were either no-see or low-see prior to the pandemic. In today’s environment, virtually all HCPs are no-see. The decline in face-to-face interactions between HCPs and pharma during COVID-19 is not expected to recover fully after the crisis, because companies, as well as HCPs and patients, have experienced the potential of digital technologies. Post-COVID commercialization of products will require a different execution framework across a broad set of digital and other non-personal capabilities. This will be even more critical to the recovery as the incidence of OUD has become more acute over the past several months.

What is your vision for “the new normal”?

COVID-19 has put digital investments back on the rails with tremendous potential impact on the scale and scope of pharma selling. This is the bugle for the first global digital march and emergence of a new commercial model! There has been a huge digital acceleration in the way pharma is responding to the whole new normal. This is true not only from the R&D perspective, but pharma is also responding faster on the patient side, on what’s the best way to deliver drugs and treatment at home, shifting it to homecare. The industry is making sure that they adjust to the HCP requirements, which will rely on virtual delivery much more moving forward, because of access issues and also because of patient safety. When the new normal emerges, obviously things will be very different. You will see remote plus digital for the first time overtaking face-to-face interactions as the preferred mode of product communication. Reps will have less access to physicians and it will have to be an omnichannel world. No wonder that pharma is reacting and building omnichannel in an accelerated way.

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