Amgen rolls new Prolia osteoporosis ads, just weeks after next-gen Evenity hits a snag

Amgen launched new work for its osteoporosis fighter Prolia—just weeks after its next generation drug was pushed back. (Amgen)

Amgen's new Prolia TV ad takes a familiar tack. It features a longtime spokesperson, actress Blythe Danner, and it re-ups the bone-strengthening message aimed at postmenopausal women.

But the new ad appears at a time when Prolia is suddenly more important to Amgen's portfolio. The company's next-generation osteoporosis drug, romosozumab, had only recently been turned back at the FDA on worries about heart safety. The agency asked Amgen and partner UCB to beef up their application with more data.

In the ad, Danner, who takes Prolia, strolled in the woods with friends and asked, “When it comes to strong bones, are you on the right path?” She noted that she and her companions are postmenopausal women at high risk for fracture.

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Amgen said the commercial was designed to make women stop and think about their bone-strengthening approach. “Often patients believe that whatever they are doing to manage their postmenopausal osteoporosis is ‘good enough,’ without knowing if their approach is working to strengthen their bones," a company spokeswoman said via email. "The new advertisement aims to challenge patients to understand if their current treatment plan is working for them."

Prolia went on the market in the U.S. in 2010, and Danner joined its marketing efforts in 2011. In addition to Prolia's TV work, the actress has appeared in print and digital ads.

Sales of the med have been steadily increasing since its launch, joining the U.S. blockbuster club last year by topping $1 billion ($1.05 billion). That was an increase of 25% from 2015 sales of $837 million. So far this year, Prolia has continued its rise, with revenue through the second quarter at $605 billion putting it on track for another $1 billion-plus year.

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Amgen looks to expand Prolia's reach to keep that growth coming. The California drugmaker recently submitted an application for Prolia as a treatment for patients with glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis, based on recent phase 3 study results.

Competitors in the osteoporosis space include longtime rival Eli Lilly’s Forteo and Radius Health’s Tymlos, approved in April. Amgen and UCB's romosozumab, which will be called 'Evenity' if approved, was officially pushed back in July after the FDA asked for a resubmission with more data—including newly released results from a phase 3 study comparing the proposed drug to Merck’s off-patent Fosamax—after late-stage trial data turned up potential heart safety issues.