Brand Beat: Reimagining Celebrity Ad Spots

Novartis recently aired a commercial for their psoriasis drug, Cosentyx, featuring the pop icon, Cyndi Lauper. While celebrities are often spokespeople for prescription brands, Novartis took what proved to be a subtler, more effective angle to this timeworn marketing approach. Rather than touting the singer as the “star” in the ad, her name is not even mentioned. This allows Lauper to blend in with a group of average people with psoriasis as an equal with her non-celebrity peers. Despite the fact that the average consumer is well aware that actors do not double as medical experts, Lauper’s downplayed role in the commercial, according to a company spokesperson, is seen as sincere, believable, and relatable.

Like other big pharma companies, Novartis is well aware that consumers can easily tell the difference between a celebrity who is promoting a product over one who is struggling with the illness or concerned for others with the illness. By reimaging the celebrity ad spot, Novartis has found a way to reach and engage patients to utilize the singer’s trusted presence to reach and engage others while breaking the traditional mold.

DC Dispatch: Colorado Passes Bill Allowing PTSD Patients Access to Marijuana

A Colorado bill proposed in 2016 recently passed, officially adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of illnesses legally treatable with medical marijuana. Military veterans and any patients suffering from PTSD can purchase and consume medical marijuana as a supplement to their treatment regimen with the prescription of a physician.

People with PTSD can now have open conversations with their physicians about how best to use medical marijuana, and those with disability benefits will also pay substantially less for their medical marijuana than they would for legally sold retail marijuana. The bill allows patients access to a safer alternative to addictive opioids and other prescription drugs and can supplement psychotherapy.

TeleMed Text: An App For Acne

Cutanea Life Science recently released a dermatology drug, Aktipak, along with a companion smartphone app. Teens using Aktipak to treat acne are avid smartphone users, who can now download “Facing Forward,” the app that allows them to take selfies and track their acne progress. The app is also a mobile resource for acne and drug information as well as a dosing reminder.

This is the first product release from Cutanea, and the company is keenly aware that their target audience is always on their phones. “A major focus at Cutanea is the development of innovative technologies that can aid in monitoring patient compliance with dermatology medications,” Robert J. Bitterman, CEO and President of Cutanea Life Sciences, said in a statement. “The ‘Facing Forward’ app is designed as a toolkit for Aktipak users, particularly active teens who are coping with acne, to derive maximum benefit from the therapy.” The app has not yet launched, but physicians at the American Association of Dermatology conference in New York responded well to a preview, finding it a convenient way to track patient’s progress and usage with visually appealing charts. The app will be made freely available and marketed directly to dermatologists who will pass it on to their patients.

Sales Sector: AMA Urges Drug Companies to List Prices

In an attempt to make the tricky job of shopping for prescriptions slightly easier, the American Medical Association (AMA) is urging drugmakers to list the prices of their suggested retail products in their consumer ads. In addition, they’d like pharmaceutical companies to make public any price increases of more than 10% before they take effect.

This comes amid tension over drug costs that have intensified due to incidents including the price hike of EpiPen, insulin, and more recently, Marathon Pharmaceuticals’ deflazacort, a treatment for Duchenne, a particular form of muscular dystrophy. A spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says that including prices won’t keep consumers informed because retail price hardly ever reflects what patients actually pay and does not take discounts and rebates into account either. The AMA, however, still insists that these open policies would bring attention to a highly debated issue that affects many Americans.

Doctor Docs: Physicians Want To Hear Something New From Reps

The annual DRG Digital’s Manhattan Research ePharma Physicians study reports that physicians believe marketing reps are showing them redundant information 51% of the time, while what they want is to be told something they don’t already know. Some fields report even higher amounts of frustration, as dermatologists have reported seeing information they already know 62% of the time and oncologists 68% of the time.

“There’s a disconnect between the sales force, which is very focused on script volumes and meeting their numbers, and digital marketers, who are focused on physician engagement and building long-term relationships with HCPs,” Jeff Wray, DRG Digital Analyst, said in a statement. “Sales and marketing teams need to get on the same page with regards to digital pull-through, so that they’re providing a deeper level of support to physicians beyond product promotion and maximizing their investment.”

A digital approach may be the way to catch the attention of busy doctors. While only 12% of physicians said they had emailed their rep in the past six months, 36% said they wanted to do so. Another 9% use self-detailing remote information programs, but another 35% said they’d be interested.

FDA Update

Drug Approvals

The FDA has approved AbbVie’s Mavyret, the first treatment approved to treat HCV genotypes 1-6 in adult patients without cirrhosis (liver disease) who have not been previously treated. It also treats adults with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotypes 1-6 without cirrhosis or with mild cirrhosis, including patients with moderate to severe kidney disease and those who are on dialysis. Patients are usually treated 12 weeks or more, after which most patients had no virus detected in their blood.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for a liposome-encapsulated combination of daunorubicin and cytarabine for treating newly diagnosed therapy-related AML (t-AML) or AML with myelodysplasia-related changes (AML-MRC), two types of AML having a poor prognosis. Vyxeos is the first drug to be approved for this treatment.

Bristol-Myers Squibb was granted accelerated approval for Opdivo (nivolumab), used for treating patients 12 years and older with mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) and microsatellite instability high (MSI-H) metastatic colorectal cancer.

The FDA granted approval of Nerlynx (neratinib) to Puma Biotechnology for the treatment of adult patients with early stage HER2-overexpressed/amplified breast cancer. The recommended dose is 240 mg (6 tablets) given orally once daily with food, continuously for one year.

Med Device Approvals

The FDA cleared Aspect Imaging Ltd. for the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device specifically for neonatal brain and head imaging in neonatal intensive care units. The Embrace Neonatal MRI System is designed specifically for imaging of the neonatal head. It has a temperature-controlled incubator placed directly into the MRI system, minimizing movement of the baby.


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