Allergan’s first push for Vraylar uses house of cards to symbolize manic side of bipolar disorder

Allergan’s new campaign for antipsychotic drug Vryalar features two firsts. It’s the first campaign for Vraylar, and it’s the first to feature the manic side of bipolar disorder as the central narrative.

In a TV ad begun in February, a young woman moves quickly around her office from task to task—typing at her computer, using her mobile phone, writing Post-It notes and putting them up on a board. The voiceover says: “Bipolar 1 disorder can make you feel unstoppable. But mania, such as unusual changes in your mood, activity or energy levels, can leave you on shaky ground.”

The camera pulls back to show that the woman’s office is balancing on top of a house of cards.

“The house of cards metaphor really represents that, while you may be feeling good now, if you’re suffering from bipolar 1 disorder, at any point in time, it could all come crashing down. By talking to a healthcare provider about a treatment, you can actually stabilize your condition,” said Ari Maizel, Allergan associate vice president of marketing.

He added, “Mania is the misunderstood end of the bipolar spectrum. Depression is understood by most people, whether directly or through a friend of loved one. Mania may be more unusual, and people don’t always know it can associated with bipolar 1 disorder.”

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It’s also important to talk about now, he said, because the average time from symptom onset to bipolar diagnosis is 10 years. The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years, according the National Institute of Mental Health, but the illness can start as early as childhood or as late as middle age, in adults in their 40s and 50s. Vraylar is approved for acute treatment of manic or mixed episodes in bipolar 1 disorder and also to treat schizophrenia.

The house of cards campaign will run on network and cable TV, and in digital ads and search, as well as in healthcare professional outreach via the Allergan salesforce. Maizel said the effort is expected to be just the beginning for a campaign that will “live over many months and years if it is successful.”

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Vraylar was first approved in 2015 for the bipolar 1 indication and added the indication for schizophrenia treatment in 2017. Allergan recently announced positive results on three Vraylar trials for bipolar depression, and analysts expect the company to file a supplemental drug application this year for that additional indication. Allergan reported sales of $288 million in 2017 for Vraylar, up from $94.3 million the previous year.

Initial responses to the campaign from consumers and HCPs have been positive, Maizel said. Patients especially connect with the house of cards metaphor for different situations in their lives that feel precarious, depending on their bipolar symptoms.

“Bipolar sufferers are not just people who are debilitated and at home—they are people who are contributing to society on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “This is a condition where one and a half million adults have the disease. It’s misunderstood and often misdiagnosed … Our hope is this campaign brings awareness.”