Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Social Media Failed, DTC Advertising Failed. Now Biogen Tries Daytime Soap Celebrities to Boost Tecfidera Sales

Social Media Failed, DTC Advertising Failed. Now Biogen Tries Daytime Soap Celebrities to Boost Tecfidera Sales | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Biogen enlisted TV actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler in a new phase of a campaign for its multiple-sclerosis drug Tecfidera just months after it stopped running a DTC ad for the same drug.

 

The Reimagine MySelf campaign consists of a website and Biogen-hosted local events in Los Angeles and Houston, featuring its celebrity spokespeople.

 

Biogen ended its DTC campaign for Tecfidera in July, when executives said the campaign did not boost prescriptions for the drug. A former Biogen patient consultant had criticized the ad saying that it misrepresents the disease (read “Biogen Ends Controversial Tecfidera DTC TV Ads. Coincidently, CEO Steps Down”; http://sco.lt/6vTKVd).

 

The Reimagine MySelf campaign originally launched on the health magazine Self's website in June 2015. The new phase of the campaign launched in September when Sigler joined as a paid spokesperson.

 

The site also features two other spokespeople for the campaign: Jeannie Mai from daytime TV show “The Real,” and chef Ben Ford. Sigler has written four blog posts on the website and said in her first post that she uses Tecfidera to treat her relapsing-remitting sclerosis. Sigler revealed in January that she had been diagnosed with the disease 15 years ago. A Biogen spokesperson confirmed she has been taking Tecfidera since December 2013.

 

Biogen has more than tripled its advertising spending for Tecfidera this year, doling out $62 million in the first half of 2016, while it spent just $17 million in the same six-month period last year, according to Kantar Media.

 

Tecfidera brought in U.S. sales of $1.5 billion for the first six months of 2016, compared to $1.3 billion in the same period in 2015. Biogen attributed the rise in Tecfidera's U.S. revenue to an increase in price.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Also read "Social Media Failed to Do the Job, So Biogen Turned to DTC to Promote Tecfidera"; http://sco.lt/98a1ZZ 

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Gilead et al Investigated by Feds for Contributions to Co-Pay Charities

Gilead et al Investigated by Feds for Contributions to Co-Pay Charities | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Federal investigators have launched a number of investigations into how drugmakers might be setting or maintaining high prices on some of their drugs, looking into pricing on generics and relationships with so-called specialty pharmacies. Now three drugmakers have been subpoenaed for information on their relationships with drug charities.

Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Biogen ($BIIB) and Jazz Pharmaceuticals ($JAZZ) have disclosed in filings that they have been hit up by the feds for documents related to their support of nonprofits that assist patients, reports Bloomberg, which has taken a deep look into such relationships.

As the news service points out, drug companies are not allowed to give direct copay help to patients who get treatments paid for by Medicare. That would be deemed a kickback. But they can make contributions to charities that assist Medicare patients to pay for drugs. That is, so long as those donations don’t have any strings attached and charities are not favoring one company’s drugs over another.

Bloomberg reports that drugmakers donated $1.1 billion to charities in 2014, more than double the amount from just four years before. The charities are important because if their support means patients sometimes continue to take expensive drugs instead of less expensive alternatives, meaning drugmakers benefit.

The charities Bloomberg spoke to claim independence. They point out they have no sway over drug prices and that their donors have no say in their operations. But the news service also spoke to a handful of former employees from one charity that claimed patients taking Jazz’s $90,000 a year narcolepsy drug Xyrem got quick help while those taking a competing drug might get waitlisted, a charge the charity denied.

These kinds of relationships came up three years ago when The New York Times reported that the Chronic Disease Fund, the largest copay assistance charity at the time, had put new administrators in place after questions were raised about favoritism towards patients taking Questcor Pharmaceuticals’ H.P. Acthar Gel, a drug that had come under criticism for its $28,000-per-vial price.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Also read “The Real Reason Big Pharma Wants to Help Pay for Your Prescription”; http://sco.lt/6mipsX

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Biogen Too "Patient-Centric?" Feds Investigating Its Patient-Assistance Programs

Biogen Too "Patient-Centric?" Feds Investigating Its Patient-Assistance Programs | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Biogen disclosed in its first-quarter earnings report that it has been subpoenaed by the federal government. The subpoena requests documents detailing its relationship with nonprofit foundations that assist patients taking drugs sold by the company. These foundations often provide financial support to patients who cannot afford their medications. Biogen said it is cooperating with the government inquiry.

It is illegal for drugmakers to give patients copay assistance if they are insured by federally funded healthcare programs. Some drugmakers fund outside foundations that, in turn, direct money towards patients for medications. These foundations are bound by rules that dictate the terms of this assistance; the foundations, for example, cannot restrict coverage to only one drug.

Patient-assistance programs have come under fire in recent months. During a House hearing, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) charged Turing Pharmaceuticals with using patient-assistance programs as a means of diverting attention from the high price of the company's toxoplasmosis treatment, Daraprim. Some critics contend that drugmakers create the need for patient-assistance programs by pricing their drugs too high.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Does this have anything to do with disappointing Tecfidera sales and Biogen's heightened direct-to-consumer promotion campaign? For more on that, read "Social Media Failed to Do the Job, So Biogen Turned to DTC to Promote Tecfidera"; http://sco.lt/98a1ZZ 

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How Many DTC Ads Are Worth 800 Jobs? Bingen Will Find Out, Says CEO

How Many DTC Ads Are Worth 800 Jobs? Bingen Will Find Out, Says CEO | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Tecfidera's slowing growth trajectory has gotten maker Biogen ($BIIB) into a pickle lately, propelling it to announce more than 800 layoffs Wednesday. But the drugmaker is hoping it can put the money it saves through those cuts into marketing activities that'll help the multiple sclerosis med pick up the pace in the U.S.


As the Massachusetts company laid out with its third-quarter earnings release, the workforce reduction will save it about $250 million per year. And it plans to reinvest that money in, among other things, new DTC marketing programs for Tecfidera, CEO George Scangos told investors on a conference call, as quoted by TheStreet.


And the company doesn't intend to waste any time continuing the DTC push. It expects to invest in Tecfidera in Q4 of this year, CFO Paul Clancy told investors, and Biogen's current thinking is that DTC outreach will extend "throughout the majority of 2016."


The way Biogen sees it, that advertising will help it win over "a whole set of patients through patient awareness," Clancy said--which is currently low, according to the data the drugmaker's got. It also figures that "when a patient comes to her doctor, particularly in the United States, with a preferred therapy, that is often the therapy that the patient goes on," he said, meaning there's a "big opportunity" on the awareness side.

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Biogen Ends Controversial Tecfidera DTC TV Ads. "Coincidently," CEO Steps Down.

Biogen Ends Controversial Tecfidera DTC TV Ads. "Coincidently," CEO Steps Down. | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Biogen halted its direct-to-consumer campaign for multiple-sclerosis drug Tecfidera because the campaign did not clearly boost the number of prescriptions.

 

[Or maybe because of patient pushback? Read “More DTC Ad Backlash. This Time from Patient Bloggers!”; http://sco.lt/55MW1p]


Michel Vounatsos, the company's new commercial lead, told investors during a second-quarter earnings call that the company is unlikely to wade back into broadcast TV for the foreseeable future. Biogen had launched the ad, titled Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis, in October.

“Our judgement at this point is that [the campaign] didn't have a discernible movement on scripts, and [it came] with some drawbacks as well,” Biogen CEO George Scangos said.

The TV campaign asked viewers to take “another look” at relapsing multiple sclerosis, showing a woman living her life with fewer relapses—including shots of her hiking, swimming and attending a carnival.

Omnicom agency CDMiConnect developed the creative for the ad. CMI and WPP's MEC were responsible for media buying.

A former Biogen patient consultant had criticized the ad in a blog post, writing that it missed the mark and “misrepresents MS and perpetuates all the myths we fight regularly but especially the one that others often think we can just take something like this little blue pill and get over and above our MS.”

Biogen spent $67.2 million on advertising for Tecfidera in 2015 and doled out $35.5 million in the first quarter of this year, according to Kantar Media.

 

Tecfidera brought in sales of $987 million in the second quarter of 2016, compared to $883 million in the same period a year ago. In the first three months of 2016, Tecfidera saw $946 million in sales.

Scangos also announced that he would be stepping down as CEO after a six-year tenure with the drugmaker. He presided over the historic launch of Tecfidera.

Pharma Guy's insight:

According to my sources (Reuters), Q1-2016 sales of Tecfidera came in at $946 million, up from $823 million last year. That's an increase of $123 million, which could be attributed to the $103 million spent on advertising. The ROI = 1.2 (for every dollar spent on ads, Biogen made an additional 20 cents). But as my friend @Richmeyer noted, sales numbers likely increased due to price increases, not new Rx's.Consequently, the ROI must have been much less than 1.

 

Also read "Social Media Failed to Do the Job, So Biogen Turned to DTC to Promote Tecfidera"; http://sco.lt/98a1ZZ 

 

Meanwhile, the CEO may be stepping down for other reasons. Read, for example, “Biogen Too ‘Patient-Centric?’ Feds Investigating Its Patient-Assistance Programs”; http://sco.lt/8GbLqT

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Inside Biogen's Tecfidera "Ad Blitz" 

Inside Biogen's Tecfidera "Ad Blitz"  | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Biogen’s twice-a-day pill for multiple sclerosis was a smash hit out of the gate in 2013, with one of the most successful drug launches in US history, even at a price of nearly $55,000 a year. But by late last year, sales growth had slowed.

 

So the biotech company went big with its first TV ad blitz for the teal pill, sold as Tecfidera. It has bought nearly $39 million worth of TV airtime over the past seven months, vaulting Tecfidera into the top 20 most advertised drugs on US television for that period, according to the media research firm iSpot.tv.

 

Many of the other most-advertised drugs target common conditions like erectile dysfunction and type 2 diabetes, which affect tens of millions of patients in the US. But Tecfidera — developed from a chemical once used to prevent mold from growing in sofas — has a small market: It’s aimed at several hundred thousand patients in the US with relapsing MS. Those patients are disproportionately female and white and they have two other options for oral MS therapies.

 

 

Some patient advocates slammed the ad for what they called an unrealistic portrayal of living with MS. The condition can vary dramatically, but many patients experience chronic, severe fatigue and numbness, even when they’re not in a state of relapse.

 

It can be tough to measure the direct impact of a drug ad. What we do know is that, in the first six months the ad was on the airwaves, Biogen’s US revenue from Tecfidera increased by 3.6 percent over the previous six-month period. That’s important because Tecfidera, which has brought in $8.3 billion in worldwide sales, is Biogen’s single biggest source of revenue.

 

But there is one red flag for Biogen: Fewer prescriptions are being filled for the drug.

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More DTC Ad Backlash. This Time from Patient Bloggers!

More DTC Ad Backlash. This Time from Patient Bloggers! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

When it launched in October, Biogen's Tecfidera commercial notched a milestone as the first TV commercial to address relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS). However, since then the ad has become a point of contention in some MS circles with commentary playing out on blogs and social media.


On one side are MS patients who say that the ad showing an active young woman--hiking, swimming and going to an amusement park--is an unrealistic portrayal of the amount of energy they have and what medication can do. On the other side are MS patients who are glad to see the condition on TV because it raises awareness.


"What on earth are you thinking?" wrote MS patient blogger Laura Kolaczkowski in a post written as a letter to Biogen on her "Inside My Story" website. She wrote: "Multiple sclerosis treatment shouldn't be shown as another 'tiny blue pill' ad like Viagra, but that is certainly the message that screams at me from this one. You show everyone that if we take this blue pill once a day, we can do anything.


"I am the first one to be encouraging, but your ad takes it beyond that. Even people with 'normal' health will not hike, swim and go to the fair in one day and still look so good; someone with MS would be out of the day before they hit noon."


She was also one of more than 125 commenters at iSpot.tv, many of whom said the ad was unrealistic. Some even called for it to be pulled off the air. An iSpot spokesman said, when asked about the volume of Tecfidera comments, that it was a large response compared to most ad feedback.


Jack Barrette, CEO of patient social network WeGo Health, said via email, "We are definitely hearing loud and clear from our MS patient community leaders that some television DTC is presenting an unrealistic view of people with MS, and that they are forced to handle not just outrage but confusion about these medications. Top leaders of our community would replace huge TV spends with in-depth digital programs that can share the true patient voice."

Pharma Guy's insight:

Meanwhile, where is the FDA? The Agency famously sent a Warning letter to GSK about an Avodart "Planetarium" TV commercial complaining that ad's imagery overstated the efficacy of Avodart in shrinking the prostate (read about that here: http://bit.ly/1RqbV66). 

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Say Hello to Shwen Gwee, @shwen, Associate Director, Global Digital Customer Engagement, Biogen

Say Hello to Shwen Gwee, @shwen, Associate Director, Global Digital Customer Engagement, Biogen | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Shwen brings over a decade of experience in digital strategy, social media and pharmaceutical marketing/communications, both on the client-side and at leading agencies, and across consumer and professional verticals. In his various professional roles, he has served as:

PRACTICE LEAD:
Leading the digital/social practice, building the team and growing business; establishing new partnerships, services and IP; developing integrated organizational workflows.


GLOBAL CONSULTANT: 
Advising teams and clients across the globe, including UK/EU, Latin America, and Asia.


INNOVATOR:
Developing and implementing creative new (digital) services; identifying and establishing partnership opportunities; working closely with health-tech startups and e-Patient influencers.


THOUGHT LEADER:
Meeting with internal leadership and digital/marketing/legal/etc. teams to present expert opinion and identify digital/social media needs; regularly featured in industry conferences and publications.

Pharma Guy's insight:


Best Wishes, Shwen. Although I'm sorry to see you leave the NYC area and resettle in anti-Yankee territory!

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