What do kids think of their parents' RA? Amgen's new Enbrel push offers a few ideas

Amgen has launched a new DTC campaign for arthritis drug Enbrel featuring children who have parents with the disease.(Amgen Headquarters)

In Amgen’s latest campaign for Enbrel, kids are speaking up. Two new TV commercials feature children talking about their parents’ painful arthritis and their worries about it. The “Being There” campaign includes one TV ad focused on a mother, and another on a father. The TV ads began running last week, backed by combined spending of just under $2 million so far, according to data from real-time TV tracker iSpot.tv.

The Mom ad specifies rheumatoid arthritis, while the Dad TV commercial focuses on psoriatic arthritis and also stars a familiar face. Longtime spokesman pro golfer Phil Mickelson is featured, along with his “daughter,” who talks about her fears about what his joint pain means. Both children are played by actors, an Amgen spokeswoman said.

The “multichannel campaign was developed based on insights we’ve learned from patients, including the fact that they are motivated to learn more about their disease when they consider how it impacts their lives,” the spokeswoman said via email.

The new ads also introduce Enbrel’s online Joint Damage Simulator, which people can use to gauge the progression of their arthritis. The simulator visually shows how joint damage from either rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis can increase over time. It includes a discussion guide that patients can print and share with their doctor.

Enbrel was first approved by the FDA 14 years ago, but it remains a blockbuster for Amgen. Last year sales totaled $5.97 billion, up 11% over 2015 sales. Amgen did note in its 2016 year-end report, however, that “the increases in Enbrel sales in 2016 and 2015 were driven primarily by an increase in net selling price, offset partially by the impact of competition. In 2017, we expect intensifying competition and relatively little benefit from net selling price changes.”

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Competitors looking to introduce biosimilars include Novartis’ Sandoz, which won FDA approval for Erelzi as a replacement for Enbrel in 2016. However, Novartis is in a protracted lawsuit with Amgen, which sued the Swiss drugmaker over patent issues even before Erelzi was approved, accusing Novartis of “piggybacking on” its breakthrough efforts. Erelzi likely won’t come on market until 2018 at the earliest.