Amgen tones down TV ad for Repatha with disco music and wedding revelry

Amgen brings back its imaginary ambulance workers in a new TV ad for cholesterol fighter Repatha, but the latest spot adds dancing and disco music—and eases up on the foreboding—to lighten the mood.

The new work comes after Amgen discounts designed to win more payer coverage and a list-price decrease to cut costs for patients. Sanofi and Regeneron have made similar changes on their rival med, Praluent, amid a still-raging patent fight between the two sides.

In a first-person account, the ad features a middle-aged man dancing with his daughter at her wedding. In a voice-over, he talks about his heart disease, and how he's watching his diet and taking a statin to fight high cholesterol.

The same imaginary ambulance workers from Repatha's previous campaign still show up to stop the happy scene, dragging the man away from his father-daughter dance. But the interlude is much more brief than in previous ads and drops the wording “pulling you away from everything you love.”

The ambulance workers quickly disappear, and the 1970s disco song “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band starts to play. The song—along with upbeat dancing and general family wedding fun—continue through the end of the 60-second spot.

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Amgen didn’t say why it created the new commercial. The two other ads in the ambulance worker campaign, which began last April, recently stopped running, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker

An Amgen spokeswoman sent a statement in response to questions from FiercePharma, saying only, “The new advertisement aims to help patients understand how in certain patients, Repatha (evolocumab) can help lower their LDL-cholesterol in addition to maximally tolerated statin therapy. We hope that patients will be encouraged to talk with their doctor to learn more about the treatment options right for them.”

Repatha, a PCSK9 cholesterol drug, got off to a slower-than-expected start after its debut in 2015, in part because of difficulty convincing payers to offer broad coverage. Last October, Amgen cut the list price of Repatha to $5,850 per year, a 60% drop from its launch price of more than $14,000. At the time, Amgen Executive Vice President of R&D David Reese told FiercePharma there had been “intense frustration” over Repatha's lack of pickup.

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Then, in February, its chief competitor Praluent from Sanofi and Regeneron matched Repatha’s price drop. Amgen took another hit in its battle with Sanofi and Regeneron in January when the Supreme Court turned down its request for review of its patent infringement case against the other PCSK9 maker, although the legal battle is far from over. The case, which was remanded back to district court, continues to progress at that level, with the possibility of another appeal at the Federal Circuit Court.

Sales of Repatha totaled $550 million in 2018, but Evaluate Pharma still expects Repatha sales to steamroll to $4.26 billion in 2024.