Heart disease tears couples apart in Novo Nordisk's new awareness ads

Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk launched a new awareness campaign to alert people with Type 2 diabetes about cardiovascular disease risks.

They seem to be typical pharma company advertisements with middle-aged couples strolling happily along, until they aren't. Two new Novo Nordisk TV ads linking Type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular risks show couples torn apart as half the screen rips away. The voiceover to the scene intones, “The morning walk was so peaceful. Until it wasn’t.”

The image repairs itself, however, as the voiceover goes on to suggest what can be done about the CV risks associated with Type 2 diabetes. Each ad is different, with the first noting that people with Type 2 diabetes are at risk for heart attack or stroke even if they meet their A1C goals. The other pointed out that the risk of heart attack or stroke is up to four times greater for people with diabetes. Both ads recommended finding out more about diabetic heart disease at the company's Heart of Type 2 website.

“The understanding of the link between Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease just isn’t there, unfortunately,” said Ed Cinca, Novo Nordisk's vice president of marketing for its GLP-1 diabetes franchise, in an interview with FiercePharmaMarketing. “So in order to best communicate what it is (and) what our organization can provide to patients and physicians, what we found is that before we can even get there, there is an education gap that needed to be filled.”

RELATED: Novo Nordisk's diabetes med Victoza chops cardiovascular risks by 13%

The intent of the campaign is to get the word out so that people with Type 2 diabetes know their risk and take steps to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Because, as Cinca pointed out, once people have a heart attack they are much more likely to have another, while strokes can be debilitating.

The Heart of Type 2 campaign targets both consumers and healthcare providers, with education and information for both groups at the website.

The ads have a different and more serious tone than other Novo Nordisk work, Cinca said, and that’s because endocrinologists and primary care physicians told the pharma company it “can’t dance around” the issue.

RELATED: Top 10 diabetes drugs by 2016 sales – Victoza

While it’s been known for some time that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people with Type 2 diabetes—70% of their deaths stem from CV causes—the link between the two has only more recently been surging in diabetes drug marketing. That’s because new FDA-approved label expansions for some next-generation diabetes drugs now allow the makers to tout heart benefits.

Novo Nordisk’s Victoza got the official nod in August to trumpet data showing that the drug reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death. The most recent Novo Nordisk Victoza branded ad includes the claim.

Jardiance, an SGLT2 drug from Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim, snagged a similar approval for a reduced risk of cardiovascular death late last year, and the companies have since incorporated that message into their DTC advertising and brought it up in an awareness campaign.

“With Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease has always been in the periphery and not really talked about, and those limitations are challenging because in truth, they need to be discussed. So yes, the new labels and the new expansion of labels allow for better education of the patients around the link between Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Cinca said.