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Lilly's new love drug: how to market Cialis?

"YOU CAN'T HURRY LOVE," sing The Supremes. But the rush to market is on for Eli Lilly & Co., now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved sale in this country of Cialis, the Indianapolis drug maker's answer to Viagra.

Approval happened just before Thanksgiving, offering Lilly executives and shareholders a new reason to be thankful. Since generic competition has depressed sales of Lilly's former blockbuster, Prozac, the company has been in need of a new star, and Cialis could be it.

After all, Viagra charted sales of well over a billion dollars last year, and Cialis is said to be a vast improvement in terms of both speed and duration, going to work in less than half an hour and remaining effective for as long as a day and a half, compared to four hours for Viagra and its newer rival, Levitra. Cialis' 24-to-36-hour life span has caused satisfied users in France to call it "le weekender" and other superlatives less printable. It also caught the attention of Time magazine, which named Cialis one of the "coolest inventions of 2003."

Up to 30 million American men over 40 are said to suffer from what Lilly politely refers to as ED (erectile dysfunction), and many are not well-served by Viagra, according to Mark Barbato, global product team leader for Cialis. Indeed, though initial Viagra marketing persuaded as many as half of the country's ED sufferers to try the drug, more than half of those first time users never renewed their prescriptions.

It's a matter of mood and logistics, Barbato believes. It takes as long as an hour after swallowing Viagra for the drug to become effective, "and its absorption is affected by a high-fat meal," he says, meaning that users may have to wait a couple hours after dinner before popping that little blue pill. That can make for some tricky scheduling when one's planning a romantic dinner in downtown Indianapolis.

"If you're going to St. Elmo, you're probably looking at a filet with a baked potato and sour cream," Barbato says. "You think you're going to go out to St. Elmo for dinner, go home, wait two hours, take a pill and wait another hour?" That's the game plan for Viagra users, he says. Cialis, meanwhile, is not ill-affected by food in the stomach, and it can be taken much earlier because it lingers in the bloodstream.

Not a wonder, then, that Cialis has taken off quickly in the few dozen countries where it's already being sold. It has quickly snared nearly a third of the ED-drug market in Australia, France, Germany and Italy, Barbato says. It already has overtaken Viagra in wholesale pharmacy orders in Italy and France, and stock analysts expect it to become a billion-dollar drug within a few years, perhaps even a $2 billion blockbuster.

Achieving that potential will require more consumer marketing than Lilly is accustomed to undertaking, including as much as $100 million in advertising (though Lilly spokespeople will not confirm the precise value of the marketing buy). While Viagra and Levitra ads have taken the macho approach, Lilly is leaning more toward an emphasis on romance, realizing that while men are the users, the women in their lives also have a keen interest in the sale.

Though the company's marketers reportedly toyed with an advertising campaign punctuated by "You Can't Hurry Love," they have since adopted a "Choose the Moment" theme, emphasizing the fact that Cialis allows for more natural romantic behavior because it can be taken hours in advance and practically forgotten about.

Now that Lilly has the green light from the FDA, American pharmacies will be stocked this month, while the direct-to-consumer marketing will begin later this winter. As Barbato noted a few days before the FDA delivered its good news, "the tablets are made and we're ready to go. The U.S. distribution system is very effective."
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Title Annotation:Around Indiana
Author:Kaelble, Steve
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:650
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