Johnson & Johnson Markets Drug Stents to Consumers

Oct 24, 2007

If you turned to section 9C of last Thursday's USA Today you might have stumbled across a peculiar sight—a full-page ad for Cypher, Cordis's drug-eluting stent.

One ad features a huge title reading Tennis Partner. Underneath it is a tiny picture of a stent and the words actual size in brackets. The rest of the ad features risk-and-benefit information, with additional warnings on the opposite page. Two other ads list Hiking Gear and Gym Equipment as the headline. The agency of record for the campaign is BBDO.

This wouldn't be the first time a medical device was advertised in a consumer publication (pacemakers manufacturers have been doing it for years), but the timing is interesting. Just two weeks ago, Medtronic received positive feedback from an FDA advisory committee that touted the safety if its new drug-eluting stent. Could this be a counterattack?

According to Cordis, a division of Johnson & Johnson, the advertisements are simply a way to educate consumers about the benefits of drug-eluting stents, in light of the negative publicity they have received in the last few years.

"Over the last year, there has been a lot of data presented that put into question the safety of drug-eluting stents," Carol Goodrich, director of corporate communications at Cordis told Pharm Exec.

Goodrich noted that two recent publications in peer-review journals documented long-term data on drug-eluting versus bare-metal stents, and those publications provided the latest available evidence around the product. As a result, Cordis felt it was appropriate to put forward as much information as possible, not just about the stents, but also about available treatment options and branded information about Cypher.

"It's up to the physician to determine what's best for the patient, but we wanted to make sure that the information was out there," Goodrich said. "It really is all about physician and patient interaction and conversation about coronary artery disease."

The campaign kicked off on Oct. 5, with the launch of the Web site www.cypherusa.com. "It is a fully integrated campaign that includes ads in USA Today, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal," Goodrich said. "We created this campaign to help facilitate an informed conversation between patients with coronary artery disease and their physicians."

In addition to the full-page ads and the Web site, Cordis is engaging in professional outreach to physicians with targeted journal ads, as well as local market media outreach.

"I don't think it's strange to market stents to consumers," said Mark Stevens, CEO of global marketing firm MSCO. "I think that a high preponderance of readers are people in a demo that would be facing a possible bypass. Conversely, when you are doing something that is atypical and you are taking up space with a message in a vehicle where one wouldn't normally find that message, you are capturing attention. I'm not sure whether the ad is going to work or not, but I do like the idea."