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Can Questcor Prevail in Pulmonary?

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Acthar gel boasts 19 different indications for which the Food and Drug Administration has granted approval. Questcor (UNKNOWN: QCOR.DL  ) now has its sights on profiting from one of those that it hasn't targeted previously. The company today announced plans to kick off a pilot commercialization effort for symptomatic sarcoidosis, a rare disease that most often affects the lungs.

Starting small
Questcor says that it will hire between five and 10 sales representatives to call on pulmonologists within the next couple of months or so. These reps will be trained and prepared to deliver the company's message on the benefits of Acthar in treating respiratory manifestations of symptomatic sarcoidosis.

The company expects those sales reps to hit the pavement in the fourth quarter, knocking on the doors of pulmonologists. Can only a handful of reps even make a dent in building up sales for Acthar? Not really, but that's not the most important goal -- at least at the beginning.

As Questcor COO Steve Cartt stated, the company expects to "gain valuable information" from the initial effort. This information will then be used to determine the best way to move forward with broader commercialization efforts.

Looking ahead
There's no guarantee that the effort to sell Acthar as a treatment for symptomatic sarcoidosis will be successful. Questcor readily admits that. However, the company does have a couple of things in its favor.

Currently, the only approved treatments for the disease are steroids -- and Acthar. Questcor needs to convince pulmonologists that Acthar is the superior alternative. The company is evaluating the possibility of moving forward with clinical studies that could bolster its case.

The other advantage for Questcor is its track record. While symptomatic sarcoidosis is a new area for the company, expanding Acthar in a smart way isn't new.

Questcor most recently took a similar approach for rheumatology. The company started small, as it's planning to do with the new targeted indication. It learned as it went forward and refined sales strategies. As a result, Questcor now says that it is seeing higher than expected prescription volumes for Acthar in treating rheumatoid arthritis and is hearing positive feedback from physicians.

Can Questcor repeat its success and prevail in the pulmonary market? I wouldn't discount the company's chances. Winning over pulmonologists isn't a sure thing, but the way Questcor handles the process makes sense. And if things don't work out, there are plenty more of those 19 approved indications to target next.

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