Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (NYSE:VRX) announced that it has rapidly scaled up its sales force by nearly 40 percent, effective immediately.

“This is a demonstration of our commitment to GI and its relative importance to the broader value of our company,” said Joseph C. Papa, Chairman and CEO of Valeant.  “The significant investments in Salix’s dedicated Primary Care Physician (PCP) sales force will help us further reach patients in need of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) treatment, and in doing so, will further accelerate growth for our company.”

During the past three months, the company has hired approximately 250 highly-trained and experienced sales force representatives and managers to bolster, create and sustain deep relationships with primary care physicians – key potential prescribers of Xifaxan® (rifaximin) for IBS-D and RELISTOR® (methylnaltrexone bromide) tablets for opioid induced constipation (OIC).  With approximately 70 percent of IBS-D patients initially presenting with symptoms to a primary care physician, the dedicated PCP sales force will be positioned to reach even more patients in need of IBS-D treatment.

“This will complement our existing primary care team and will allow us to capture nearly 75 percent of the primary care market opportunity,” said Mark McKenna, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Salix Pharmaceuticals.

In addition, the company has expanded its dedicated pain sales representatives to strengthen its position in the OIC market, and established a nurse educator team to educate clinical staff within top institutions.

Shares of Valeant closed last Friday at $16.18, down -0.40 or -2.41%. VRX has a 1-year high of $76.95 and a 1-year low of $13. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $15.00 and its 200-day moving average is $20.03.

On the ratings front, VRX has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report released today, Canaccord analyst Neil Maruoka maintained a Hold rating on VRX, with a price target of $19, which represents a potential upside of 17% from where the stock is currently trading. Separately, on February 23, Wells Fargo’s David Maris reiterated a Sell rating on the stock and has a price target of $11.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Neil Maruoka and David Maris have a yearly average loss of 6.4% and a return of 4.2% respectively. Maruoka has a success rate of 36% and is ranked #4286 out of 4501 analysts, while Maris has a success rate of 46% and is ranked #1586.

Sentiment on the street is mostly neutral on VRX stock. Out of 11 analysts who cover the stock, 7 suggest a Hold rating, 3 suggest a Sell and one recommends to Buy the stock. The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $15.50, which represents a slight downside potential from current levels.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. is a pharmaceutical company which engages in developing, manufacturing, and marketing pharmaceutical products in the areas of dermatology, eye health, neurology, and generics. It operates through the Developed Markets and Emerging Markets. The Developed Markets segment offers over-the-counter and medical products as well as alliance and contract service revenues, in the areas of dermatology and podiatry, neurology, gastrointestinal disorders, eye health, oncology and urology, dentistry, aesthetics, and women’s health. The Emerging Markets consists of branded generic pharmaceutical and branded pharmaceuticals; over-the-counter and medical device products.