Next DTC push for Linzess: Spotlight patients, with big salesforce backup

With Actavis ($ACT) and Ironwood's ($IRWD) first DTC campaign for GI med Linzess, the goal was to help patients identify irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) and chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) by clearly communicating the symptoms. Now that the team is back with its sophomore DTC effort, the goal is to encourage patients to find a solution to their problems. A branded, prescription solution.

The new rollout aims to "bridge the gap that exists between the number of people who suffer from IBS-C and CIC and the small number of people who actually receive treatment," Actavis' commercial EVP of North American brands, Bill Meury, told FiercePharmaMarketing. To do that, it places patients describing their symptoms at the forefront.

In one TV spot, a woman sketches a storm cloud and lightning bolt. "My constipation and belly pain feel like a raging storm," she says. "I've tried laxatives, but my symptoms keep returning." Later, a narrator explains that Linzess can help patients "proactively" manage their symptoms.

"We wanted to design an ad that essentially gave patients the words and pictures to describe exactly what they're feeling," Meury said.

Like its predecessor TV ad--which Meury dubbed "a great success by industry norms"--the new commercial will run during prime-time network programming such as "Dancing with the Stars," "Modern Family" and "The Voice." The campaign will also feature print ads in popular consumer magazines including People, Cooking Light and Better Homes & Gardens.

And like any good DTC rally, Meury said, the campaign will have a sizeable sales force behind it--about 1,500 reps who call on 75,000 to 100,000 primary care physicians and gastroenterologists.

They'll have their work cut out for them. There's a large OTC market Actavis and Ironwood will have to disrupt if they want Linzess to reach its potential, according to Meury. "So many patients are essentially self-medicating," he said.

Actavis EVP Bill Meury

But that trail is not unblazed. Plenty of meds have unseated their consumer health rivals, he pointed out. Take proton pump inhibitor drugs such as Prilosec and Protonix, which shoved aside H2 receptor agonists like Tagamet and Zantac when they hit the scene. Non-sedating antihistamines Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin similarly stole the spotlight from sedating antihistamines.

"We've seen DTC campaigns work very successfully in categories where there's a large OTC component," he noted.

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