Sarafem: Leslea Hsu

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Last year's launch of Sarafem cannot be ignored as an astute marketing maneuver. Facing the expiration of the patent on Prozac-the well-received antidepressant-that will usher in generic, lower-price competition, Eli Lilly & Co. looked for ways to at least forestall the exodus of billions of dollars in revenue.

Enter Sarafem, the Prozac facsimile, the same product in which the Prozac green color was simply changed to the softer, more feminine pink and lavender. Brand Manager Leslea Hsu, 46, and her team also launched Sarafem in August 2000 not to treat the stigmatized condition of depression, but premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, referred to as a severe form of PMS. The idea is severe PMS, like depression, can be eased by more efficient transmission of serotonin to the brain-Prozac's core competency. On paper, some symptoms (irritability, anxiety) are the same for both maladies.

But with the help of what Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR pegged as a $14 million-plus direct-to-consumer ad effort in only a period of months, Sarafem generated some $33 million in sales in the five months it was available in 2000, according to NDC Health. Sales increased each month from August through December. They have continued to escalate in 2001 as sales for May, the last month available, of some $10 million are more than double the figure for January 2001, according to NDC. Prozac's patent expiration, however, will be a significant hurdle going forward.

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