Gilead puts new DTC ads behind its already-stellar Harvoni launch

By Beth Snyder Bulik

It's fitting that Gilead's ($GILD) star hep C drug Harvoni is grabbing the spotlight in its first direct-to-consumer TV ads. The television, print and digital ad campaign--tagged "I am Ready"--began April 20 and will run through the end of the year, said David Johnson, Gilead VP, U.S. sales and marketing for liver diseases, in an email interview.

The "I Am Ready" Harvoni TV ad

While Gilead has run campaigns to raise hepatitis C awareness, including an ongoing TV and digital effort called "Forget Me Not" that points consumers to Gilead website HepCHope.com, this is the first time it has promoted a specific drug. The TV commercial uses slow-motion images of potential patients--riding horseback, stretching for dance class, driving with windows down--with voiceovers on the "I am ready" theme.

And what a drug it is. Harvoni, a next-gen combination hep C treatment approved last year, rung up $2.3 billion in its first quarter on the U.S. market. Harvoni's main competition right now is AbbVie's ($ABBV) new Viekira Pak; however, Merck ($MRK) is working on approval for its own combo regimen now predicted to go to market before the end of the year.

Gilead's "Ready" theme is meant to encourage "diagnosed patients who are ready to seek treatment and ready to be cured" to talk to their doctors, Johnson said.

It's also a nod to many hep C patients who've been told by healthcare providers to hang on for new drug developments--or forced by insurers to wait until symptoms worsen. The next-gen hep C drugs are expensive, with list prices upwards of $1,000 per day over a typical 12-week treatment period. More than 3 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C, according to government estimates, so the potential costs are astronomical. Strikeforce Communications created the ad campaign.

"We believe we have a responsibility to let people living with HCV know there may be a cure available to them," Johnson said. "The campaign is designed to improve awareness of this advancement, encourage patients with HCV to connect with a qualified health care provider, and support a better conversation between patient and provider to increase patients' understanding of their disease and explore treatment options."

- see the Harvoni TV ad

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