AbbVie, in fierce fight for eczema market, creates short documentary to show benefits of seeking help

What connects Chris Pine, the RZA and AbbVie? They all have films playing at South by Southwest 2023. The Big Pharma is using the event to debut a short documentary about how eczema affects the physical and emotional lives of three people. 

Working with Redglass Pictures, AbbVie, which sells the atopic dermatitis drug Rinvoq, has created Under My Skin: Untold Stories of Life with Eczema, a 13-minute documentary that follows three people who have eczema. The first act of the film, which will stream on The Roku Channel in the U.S. from April 1, introduces the people showcased in the short—Lanese, Rob and Alexis—and has them describe how eczema has affected their lives while footage and photos of them play.

As Alexis explains at the start of the documentary: “Eczema is so much more than just a rash. It is sleepless nights. It's missing out on things that you really wanted to do. I mean, it's definitely a roller coaster to wake up and feel like you have to cover a part of yourself.”

Lanese and Rob expand on those sentiments, explaining how eczema can make you “feel like your body is burning” and made them avoid going outside and become reclusive. Alexis then says how she “always had shame and embarrassment related to my eczema” and how she selected a prom dress to “hide what I needed it to hide.”

After showing how isolating eczema can be, the documentary pivots in the second act. In that section, Alexis describes how she posted a photo on social media showing half of her face with the eczema exposed, and the other half with it covered by makeup. The post connected Alexis to other people with eczema, including to existing friends who, unbeknownst to each other, had been living with the condition for years.

Lanese and Rob have their own revelations in the second part of the documentary. For Lanese, having a baby who develops eczema drives her to take action. Rob met a woman who told him: “You deserve to sleep at night. You deserve to be able to walk outside and see the sunlight without feeling pain.” Lanese and Rob both later met with dermatologists who helped them to manage their conditions.

Rob mentions a treatment plan that “set him on the right path” but lifestyle changes are given more prominence than medicines in the documentary. The only mention of AbbVie is a logo at the end of the credits. The notes below the video on YouTube link to Eczema HQ, an AbbVie-sponsored website that includes resources for patients with the condition.

AbbVie is putting money into eczema education as it works to grow sales of Rinvoq, which is approved for use in atopic dermatitis, the most common form of the skin condition. Sales of the JAK inhibitor hit $2.5 billion last year, up more than 50% in 2021, and are forecast to keep rising as AbbVie looks to the drug to offset the loss of exclusivity on Humira.