Restasis-maker Allergan recruits actress Marisa Tomei to drive dry eye awareness

Is there an Oscar for best dry eye awareness performance in pharma? Actress Marisa Tomei is speaking up about the disease as Allergan's spokesperson for its branded Restasis marketing, while Shire has tapped actress Jennifer Aniston to front its disease awareness TV campaign. Tomei signed on as an ambassador for Restasis in July, talking to news and TV media outlets about her own experience with the disease, and Aniston joined Shire's unbranded effort in August.

Tomei also teamed up with Guide Dogs for the Blind and will contribute $1 for every person who takes the Restasis dry eye quiz on its website through the end of the year. So far, more than 40,000 people have done so. Traffic to the Restasis website has also increased by 50% since the campaign began, Herm Cukier, senior vice president for U.S. eye care at Allergan, told FiercePharma.

Restasis is the market share leader in dry eye prescription treatments, launched first in 2003. But it recently got its first category competition with Shire’s launch of Xiidra. To promote the newer drug, Shire is running two ad campaigns, the unbranded dry eye disease awareness campaign featuring Aniston, and another branded Xiidra campaign that began in September.

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While the two compete in the dry eye treatment market, they have different indications. Xiidra is approved for dry eye disease, while Restasis’ indication is for increasing tear production. A Bernstein analyst noted recently that while Shire has the full dry eye label advantage, Allergan “enjoys the power of incumbency,” including contracts, sales and an established patient pool.

Cukier said that even after Restasis’ years on the market, awareness about dry eye is still needed for several reasons: It’s not an obvious condition with symptoms that can often also be attributed to other causes; modern lifestyles that include increased screen time can exacerbate the condition; and increasing innovation in the category will open up different options for different types of dry eye conditions.

He noted Allergan’s own pipeline of treatments, which includes a recent filing for “the first neuro-stimulator, which will allow patients to create their own tears.”

“In the future, we’re going to see a lot more awareness as more and more innovation comes to the market,” Cukier said. “And also as clinicians more proactively engage with patients because they have more treatment options.”

- read Allergan's news 

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