At a glance: Bayer blitz on hypertension drug telmisartan

What’s this about? Bayer HealthCare has bought the rights to market the blood-pressure drug telmisartan in a number of European markets from GlaxoSmithKline. Boehringer Ingelheim developed telmisartan and markets it globally under brand name Micardis.

So who's handling Bayer's PR for the drug?
PR at Bayer is overseen by Christina Sehnert, head of corporate policy, who is based at the company's HQ in Leverkusen. Bayer already promotes telmisartan as Kinzalmono in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Under the new agreement it will co-market it as Pritor in Italy, Spain, France, Greece and other European markets.

Is it the end for GSK and telmisartan?
No. Although its only European market for the drug will now be Turkey, the company will continue to promote it as Pritor under a co-marketing agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim in four other countries, including Brazil and South Korea. GSK was not available for comment.

Will this affect any UK PR agencies?
The new agreement does not affect this country. Boehringer Ingelheim continues to hold the exclusive rights to promote the drug in the UK, where it is called Micardis. The manufacturer uses Virgo Health PR, whose joint MD Sarah Matthew leads the account. London-based Shire Health International, which Boehringer Ingelheim uses to promote telmisartan globally, says it is continuing with a full programme of PR.

What are the current PR drivers for hypertension drugs?
A major trial, called OnTarget, is currently looking at 29,000 patients across 700 locations worldwide in a bid to understand how to lower cardiovascular risk. It's fair to assume that a large portion of PR effort, in whatever country, will be working towards the results of that, expected in 2008.

What else is on the market?
In the UK, competition is pretty fierce, with manufacturers including Merck Sharp & Dohme (Cozaar) Novartis (Diovan), Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi (Aprovel) and AstraZeneca/Takeda (Amias).

How big a deal is hypertension?
The human cost is incalculable: sufferers are four times more likely to have a heart attack than the general population.

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