AZ, Daiichi sign up Olympian Joyner-Kersee, hoping OIC patients will make tracks to Movantik

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

When you're targeting an under-the-radar malady that hasn't traditionally been treated with prescription drugs, it's up to marketers to get the word out and deliver on sales. And that's why AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Daiichi Sankyo, whose Movantik launched earlier this year, are bringing a 6-time Olympic medalist on board to talk about opioid-induced constipation (OIC).

The two drugmakers have partnered up with former long jump and heptathlon athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, once an OIC sufferer herself. Together, they're encouraging those who think they may have the condition to talk to healthcare providers and check out, an online community meant to help OIC patients and their caregivers share their stories and learn about the differences between OIC and other types of constipation.

The companies recognize that some people are reluctant to start conversations with their doctors thanks to the "sensitive and personal nature of the condition," said Cathy Datto, AZ's U.S. medical lead. So, they're "thrilled" to be partnering with Joyner-Kersee, who battled OIC after taking opioids meant to stem the pain from training.

"While the opioids helped manage the pain, I noticed I became constipated frequently--but I tried to ignore it," Joyner-Kersee said in a statement. "However, it was taking such an emotional and physical toll that I finally had to work up the nerve to talk to my healthcare provider, and it wasn't until then that I learned I had (OIC)."

And AZ and Daiichi--which shelled out $200 million-plus to sign on with the brand--are hoping patients follow her lead. The companies have a first-to-market advantage and the convenience factor on their side; Valeant ($VRX) competitor Relistor, for one, is an injectable. But GlobalData analyst Claire Gibson has said increasing awareness of new OIC therapies is "essential" to boosting the prescription rate for the condition, which patients often try to fight with less-effective OTC meds.

"The potential success of OIC therapies ... will depend on extensive marketing," she wrote in March.

- read the release

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