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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Boehringer Defends Pradaxa Ad as Example of "Highlighting" More Women in Ads, But Only as Caregivers, Not Patients

Boehringer Defends Pradaxa Ad as Example of "Highlighting" More Women in Ads, But Only as Caregivers, Not Patients | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Now a year into the "Red Fish" campaign, Boehringer was pleased with the feedback and effectiveness of the fish-as-blood-clot imagery, but the German drugmaker decided it was time for an evolution of the AFib campaign. The new DTC work, created by GSW, moves away from a simple all-white background for the CGI fish and gives them the blue-water backdrop of an aquarium, while also adding in visitors walking along and watching.


“We obviously still wanted to keep the red fish because that has been the key to success with its very simple way of describing a complex problem that resonates with consumers,” David Edwards, Boehringer executive director of cardiovascular marketing, said in an interview. “We’ve evolved it in way that infuses it with a bit more, I guess you could say, 'humanity,' as it was just the fish before.”


With a couple in focus in the ad, Pradaxa not only adds that human element, but also a subtle note of the woman leading the man, Edwards said, as a way to highlight women more in the communications. Women have AFib at about the same rate as men, but through marketing research, they've also been proven as household gatekeepers and purchase influencers.


Physician feedback for the campaign has also been positive, Edwards said, with doctors noting an uptick in patients asking about the treatment represented by the red fish or wanting to discuss the AFib treatment “with the reversal.” Pradaxa is the only med in its class with an FDA-approved reversal agent, which may ease some patients' and doctors' worries about the potentially fatal bleeding side effects that come along with the new-age drugs. As in the original "Red Fish" ad, agent Praxbind is not mentioned by name, but rather referred to as the only emergency reversal treatment just for Pradaxa.


The red fish imagery also appears in Pradaxa communications with healthcare providers, as well as TV, print and digital consumer-facing work, and it will likely be around for some time. Edwards said this campaign will run through the end of the year, but he expects that thanks to its success, it will continue to evolve beyond that.

Pharma Guy's insight:

I have noted in the past ( that every anti-Afib medication DTC campaign uses similar imagery of an elderly couple and the patient is the husband (or father).

In these ads, the man is clearly the focus although women are equally as likely to have Afib. 

At the time I asked: "Why are women only portrayed as caregivers and otherwise "left out of the [Afib] picture" in these ads?"


Clearly, the BI marketers are trying to defend themselves by "highlighting women more" in the ads - but it is so subtle as to be meaningless because it actually reinforces that the man is the patient and the woman is there just to guide him.

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Boehringer planning job cuts in Germany

Boehringer planning job cuts in Germany | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim has implemented a hiring freeze and plans to reduce its headcount in its home market in a bid to reduce costs.

The news was revealed in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which cited a company spokesperson who said Boehringer wants to trim its costs by 15 per cent in order to make more money available for investments.

The news also comes shortly after the company agreed a $650m settlement of all state and federal litigation in the US regarding its oral anticoagulant Pradaxa (dabigatran), which focused on the drug's safety.

"We have to create scope for further development, which will enable us to continue to invest vigorously in organic and sustainable growth," said Boehringer's chairman Andreas Barner.

Pharma Guy's insight:

I hope the digital/social media people are not the first to go!

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Two Pradaxa Post-Marketing Safety Studies Reach Different Conclusions: Which One Will Boehringer Distribute to Docs?

Two Pradaxa Post-Marketing Safety Studies Reach Different Conclusions: Which One Will Boehringer Distribute to Docs? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Boehringer's anti-clotting drug Pradaxa is marketed as better and safer than warfarin, the generic and much cheaper alternative. The ads specifically mention that no frequent blood tests are needed to monitor the safety and effectiveness of Pradaxa, whereas such tests are necessary for warfarin.

This makes easier to sell Pradaxa to cardiologists and family practitioners who can pass on these obvious safety advantages to patients who need to carefully weigh benefits vs. risks of these powerful drugs. 

But this task is made much more difficult when there are two post-marketing approval safety studies that come to two different conclusions. Considering that news of the studies have been released on the same day (today), the stage is set for battling it out in public.

One study of Medicare patients -- by the FDA -- was published online inCirculation on October 30, 2014. A press release dated today (November 3, 2014; here) claimed that it "further reinforces the favorable benefit/risk profile of PRADAXA."

Another, independent study of Medicare patients, titled "Dabigatran Associated with Higher Incidence of Major Bleeding vs. Warfarin," was published online November 3, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine (and embargoed until 3 pm Central). That study claimed that the "incidence of major bleeding was 9 percent for the dabigatran (Pradaxa) group and 5.9 percent for the warfarin group."

How do two different studies seemingly reach two different conclusions based on the same population? And which study will Boehringer (BI) distribute to docs via its sales reps?

Pharma Guy's insight:

Recall that BI was sanctioned for violating Clauses 2, 9.1, 3.2, 22.1 and 22.2 of the ABPI Code of Practice in 2011. The case originated from a complaint by a "general practitioner" filed with the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), which oversees the ABPI Code.

The PMCPA "was very concerned about the content of the press release and the briefing material for spokespersons. The [PMCPA] Panel considered that these would in effect encourage members of the public to ask their health professional to prescribe a specific prescription only medicine. The Panel was concerned about the lack of information in a consumer press release relating to side effects."

The news articles written based on BI press materials made some great marketing statements that BI could never make, such as referring to Pradaxa as a "super pill" and a "revolutionary drug." The stories also dissed the competition (warfarin) by referring to it as "rat poison." BI press materials did not refer to warfarin as rat poison and "otherwise made no disparaging remarks about the medicine," said PMCPA, which had no evidence about how warfarin had been described by Boehringer Ingelheim’s spokespersons or at any press conference. Therefore, no breach of the Code was ruled in that regard.

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