File This Under “Trouble, A’ Brewing” — Among Pharma’s Backwater Former “Second Cousins”


It seems InSite Vision released its first quarter 2012 results this morning. You may recall (and if you don’t, see here) that almost exactly a year ago, Merck closed on its acquisition of Inspire Pharmaceuticals. Inspire, in turn, has a pact to market InSite’s AzaSite® eye products in the United States. So, now that duty to aggressively promote AzaSite falls to Merck.

It seems that AzaSite is losing share to a Bausch + Lomb produced product called Zilet®. AzaSite sales are down 20 percent this quarter. With me so far?

Now, the “potentially-feuding cousins” twist — you will certainly recall that the Ex-CEO of legacy Schering-Plough (also acquired by Merck), one “Fast” Fred Hassan, is now the chairman of the board of B + L [and that his former Schering-Plough buddy, Brent Sanders, is now the CEO of B + L]. Could it be that InSite Vision sees a chance to exploit the reputed to be “less-than-cordial” relationships between current Merck management and the legacy S-P guys (who — federal court documents have averred — sold a sow’s ear labeled as a silk purse, to Merck)?

Or, could it be that the B + L product is simply. . . superior? Finally, could it be that the Hassan-led B + L is suddenly far more adept at selling “sizzle,” rather than “delivering steak“? My guess is that it is a little bit of all of these things.

In any event, here is a bit of the InSite Vision presser — do go read it all — it plainly hints that it will blame Merck for the downturn, here:

“. . . .The first quarter was one of progress against our product development objectives to advance innovative ophthalmic therapeutics that we believe will provide a meaningful benefit to patients,” said Timothy Ruane, InSite’s Chief Executive Officer. “Enrollment in the Phase 3 DOUBle clinical study of AzaSite Plus and DexaSite for the treatment of blepharitis continues to go smoothly. We have recently conducted highly productive meetings with the Food and Drug Administration to discuss the regulatory path forward for both BromSite and DexaSite, which we expect will move forward into Phase 3 clinical trials later this year. However, we continue to be disappointed in Merck’s commercialization results for AzaSite as our royalties are down significantly from a year ago. We are in communications with Merck to identify and develop a strategy designed to restore AzaSite prescription growth as soon as possible. . . .”

Do stay tuned. You know we will.

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