Amarin’s newest unbranded campaign to highlight heart risks takes on not only supermarket fish oil, but also discredited niacin and fenofibrate drugs once used alongside statins.
While the work is unbranded, it’s no coincidence that Amarin’s Vascepa fish oil derivative was approved in December by the FDA to reduce cardiovascular risks, taken along with a statin for patients with high triglycerides.
Part of the reason for the work is that while the FDA withdrew approval of fenofibrates and niacin in combination with statins in 2016, Amarin research found 55% of physicians still prescribe them. The agency withdrew that support for fenofibrates and niacin—which had been approved as far back as 1997—after determining there was no incremental benefit to using them in tandem with statin therapy.
The same Amarin study found that, among the 500 healthcare professionals surveyed in December and January, another 47% recommended fish oil supplements as an addition to statin therapy for patients with persistent CV risk.
“We believe this prescribing still happens because physicians aren’t aware of the FDA action and/or the scientific evidence,” said Gwen Fisher, Amarin's vice president of corporate communications, in an email interview, adding, “The campaign is designed to be factual and educational.”
Amarin is still planning to launch a branded Vascepa DTC campaign by midyear, she said.
Vascepa, initially approved in 2012 as an adjunct to diet for patients with very high triglycerides, has been riding high on the recent new indication with peak sales estimates now topping $3 billion, according to Jefferies. It got a boost last week with the news that AstraZeneca’s would-be rival Epanova and a similar drug from Acasti Pharma had failed in trials, leaving the runway clear for Vascepa.
Fisher said, “With our unbranded campaign, we aim to increase consumer awareness that they may be missing out on important cardiovascular risk protection, and hope to encourage everyone, from patients to doctors, to educate themselves so people can make the best health decisions to protect their hearts.”