Lights! Camera! Psoriasis!

February 28, 2007
Pharmaceutical Executive
Volume 0, Issue 0

Companies like Amgen, J&J launch DTC efforts to raise awareness of biologics.

Companies like Amgen and Johnson & Johnson have launched consumer awareness campaigns to help educate the large number of untreated psoriasis patients about the biologics available to them.

Most doctors treat the disease with the standard ladder approach, starting with a topical therapies and, if they fail, UV radiation as a second line and biologics only as a last resort. Amgen, for instance, estimates that only six percent of moderate to severe cases of the inflammatory disease are currently being treated with a biologic--a finding echoed by research firm Datamonitor, which cited the high dose required for efficacy as well as long-term safety questions as barriers to uptake.

Safety and efficacy are the two notes Amgen is striking in its latest one-two punch--a psoriasis-awareness initiative launched last summer followed in the fall by branded direct-to-consumer ads--to increase market share for Enbrel (etanercept), which has been losing ground to competitor products like Abbott's Humira (adalimumab). Enbrel currently has 78 percent of the US biologics market for dermatologic indications and 40 percent for rheumatology. But the product has also gotten a boost from strong Medicare Part D coverage.

Amgen reps declined to comment on the campaigns, but a 2006 earnings presentation listed "utilize multiple DTC channels" and "enhance the patient/physician dialogue" as key tactics. The company has also partnered with the National Psoriasis Foundation to encourage more aggressive treatment with the release of a study highlighting data that people with severe psoriasis tend to earn less than those with the mild form of the disease. The study also found that 57 percent of patients with severe psoriasis and 73 percent with moderate psoriasis are being treated only with topical drugs.

Less than two-thirds of psoriasis patients have been diagnosed, and marketing campaigns will be key to expanding the market, according to the Datamonitor report.

Johnson & Johnson unit Centocor is also going the unbranded disease-awareness route with a new 58-minute documentary screening in 14 cities. With an "Every journey begins with hope" tagline and a Web site at www.myinnerstate.com, Innerstate follows the twists and turns of three people coping with autoimmune inflammatory conditions, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. The film, which premiered in New York last week with a red carpet of D-List celebs like the winner of America's Next Top Model, is garnering mainstream coverage as the first-ever documentary financed entirely by a drug maker.

Centocor markets Remicade (infliximab) for the three conditions, a $3 billion injectable that saw 18.9 percent growth last year, largely due to approval for new indications, including--as you might guess--severe psoriasis.