ThromboGenics said today that disappointing U.S. sales during a “learning year” have prompted the board of the eye drug developer to explore strategic options designed to generate more revenues for its lead product.

The strategic review follows the launch last year of Jetrea® (ocriplasmin) as the first and only pharmacological treatment indicated for symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion (VMA) in the U.S., as well as for vitreomacular traction (VMT) in Europe. On the continent and elsewhere outside the U.S., ThromboGenics has sold Jetrea through Novartis’ eye medicine unit Alcon.

Stateside, however, ThromboGenics has marketed Jetrea on its own. About 7,000 patients have been treated with the drug since its U.S. launch in January 2013, when the company reached its all-time market capitalization high of €677 million (approximately $930 million).

ThromboGenics did not disclose U.S. sales in releasing third-quarter results on Nov. 7, but disclosed several steps to boost those sales: The company said it would:

  • Name an interim U.S. business head, Keith Steward, Ph.D., the company’s head of medical affairs—and launched a search for a head of U.S. business operations who would provide “strategic alignment” and leadership for the marketing, sales, medical affairs and market access teams.
  • Step up its U.S. medical education efforts by increasing to 12 its number of U.S.-based medical science liaison managers, without saying how many such managers it had previously.
  • Build a registry of all U.S. patients treated with Jetrea that would provide data on the status of patients’ conditions when they received the drug, and the outcomes of their treatment.

Belgian-based ThromboGenics saw its cash fall 5.5% during Q3 2013, to €183 million ($251.2 million) as of Sept. 30, from €193.6 million ($265.7 million) as of June 30, yet retained an optimistic U.S. outlook: “With this level of cash, ThromboGenics has the financial resources it needs to fully sustain the U.S. commercialization of Jetrea,” the company said, as well as develop new indications and formulations with Alcon, and expand its R&D pipeline.

Yet the company also said back then it needed to promote Jetrea more to U.S. medical professionals ; its sales team targeted  more than 2,00 retinal physicians across 1,400 practices.

“It is clear that these expanded educational efforts along with the provision of reimbursement and medical information support will require more time before they lead to a significant uptick in Jetrea’s prescribing,” ThromboGenics CEO Patrik De Haes, M.D. said in November. “Given the positive outcomes we have seen in a number of Jetrea excellence centers across the US, we remain confident of generating a higher level of sales with this innovative new drug.”

“The high level of awareness of Jetrea amongst the retina community in the US at the time of launch, has not yet delivered the sales volume that the company had anticipated,” ThrombioGenics said today in a statement. “2013 has been a learning year for ThromboGenics.”

Hence the strategic review, to be conducted by Morgan Stanley. The company did not say how long it expected the review to take, or what options it would explore—but did say it still expects Jetera to emerge as a new standard of care for symptomatic VMA/VMT.

“The Board has made this decision to explore alternative options for the Company to increase its ability to realize the significant commercial potential of Jetrea in the US market,” Dr. Dr Haes said today. “We are starting the strategic exercise with an open mind.”

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