Sprout CEO Cindy Whitehead heads for the exits amid lackluster Addyi launch
- Sprout Pharmaceuticals CEO Cindy Whitehead will be departing from her perch as the company's chief, the New York Times reports.
- Sprout burst onto the national scene when its controversial female libido pill, Addyi, gained FDA approval over the summer after several failed attempts by Whitehead and her husband to get the drug to market.
- The currently embattled pharma giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals struck a $1 billion deal to snag Sprout Pharma mere days after Addyi's approval, including an upfront $500 million payment and another $500 million installment to be dished out next year. But the much-vaunted drug has been off to a rocky start with decidedly lackluster early sales after launching in November.
Whitehead will reportedly continue in a consulting role with Valeant and Sprout after leaving the company. But the story of Addyi underscores the perilous path to market uptake, even for therapies that drugmakers consider to be groundbreaking.
Bloomberg reported in November that there had only been 227 prescriptions written for Addyi in the weeks after its launch, as opposed to the groundswell of 500,000 prescriptions for Viagra (which Addyi has, improperly, been compared to by some) in its first month on the market.
Valeant spokespeople praised Whitehead's quest to get Addyi past FDA scrutiny. "Thanks to the efforts of Cindy and her team, Valeant has the opportunity to make Addyi broadly available to patients in need of this important medical treatment," said Valeant senior vice president for investor relations Laurie Little in a statement. "Having built a team to take Addyi to market, we mutually agreed that it was the right time to transition to new leadership for the next phase of global commercialization."
Valeant's statement does underscore the daunting challenge ahead for boosting Addyi's numbers, including convincing more physicians to become certified for dispensing the medication. This certification process takes just about 10 minutes but has reportedly only been pursued by about 350 OB/GYNs and 4,350 primary care doctors.