Novartis deploys homecare team

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

MINNEAPOLIS - Novartis Medical Nutrition plans to field a re-organized sales force Oct. 1 with 42 reps dedicated to the homecare market.

The new commitment to home care by Novartis follows its $385 million acquisition of Mead Johnson & Company’s adult medical nutrition business in February and a realization that home care providers are playing an increasingly larger role in product selection.

“In home care, you are going to see a big change in the terms of frequency of calls, the types of calls, even the dialogue that we’re going to have with these accounts,” said Jess Smith, the channel marketing manager for Novartis Medical Nutrition. “It’ll be less about, ‘What are you doing,’ and more about, ‘We know what you’re doing, now we want to help you get where you want to be.’”

Until the reorganization, the layers of account rep specialties - pediatric, clinical, acute care, etc. - confused home care suppliers who quite often couldn’t get a handle on who their rep was supposed to be. Novartis reps had cultivated a strong position in the long term care market and focused on acute care settings where they could nudge patients toward home care providers who supplied their brand of product.

But increasingly, home enteral providers are getting to make the call when it comes to which brand of enteral nutrition to provide, said Jim Wiley, owner of Option 1 Billing Solutions in Chandler, Ariz.

And Novartis plans to follow.

The market for enteral nutrition is enormous by DMEPOS standards. In 2003, Medicare allowed charges of $200 million for enteral formula and $190 million for enteral pumps.

The major suppliers in the United States are Apria, Option Care and Coram. Ross Products commands the greatest share of the homecare market.

But Novartis said its share is growing and should enjoy a substantial boost after the company flips the switch on the sales reorganization.

“We’ll be the first [enteral nutrition vendor] to have a homecare support team and specialists deployed across the nation,” said Smith.