Amid Exkivity launch, Takeda beefs up in-house digital content team, AI to educate oncologists

With the launch of its new niche lung cancer drug Exkivity in September last year and a slew of precision cancer meds in the pipeline, Takeda Oncology is upping its digital content game in response to the disruption in the industry brought on by the pandemic. 

Pallavi Garg, who became head of global oncology and pipeline strategy at the company in February after spending a year helming U.S. oncology marketing, is leading the charge. 

Although she declined to give numbers, Garg has been amassing a team of in-house digital content experts to respond to oncologists’ growing appetite for high-quality scientific content. 

And she has been steering efforts to build up the company’s artificial intelligence technology to ensure HCPs get relevant content only when they need it.

The changes come as recent market research reports warned HCPs have felt overwhelmed by the deluge of pharma content being pushed their way during the pandemic, when sales reps could no longer see doctors in person.

The strategy also follows calls from oncologists for more real-world data and for content that can help them understand how innovative but complex precision cancer treatments can best help their patients. 

Takeda is taking all of that to heart in introducing doctors to Exkivity and in ramping up for future oncology launches.

“Our objective is to be a better partner in care to the HCPs and provide timely and impactful education around disease states, and to just simplify the experiences of our audiences,” Garg said in a recent interview with Fierce Pharma Marketing.

One thing Garg is keeping a close eye on these days is the email opt-out button.

If oncologists push it too often, it’s a red flag that content is missing the mark and the company needs to rethink its approach. The traditional “more is better” model pharma marketers relied on in the past is obsolete in an industry reshaped by COVID-19, she noted.

“We’re coming into a world where we’re realizing it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” she said. “So opt-out is a much better metric to tell you if you’re delivering the right content.”

Takeda is leveraging its own proprietary data and insights to tailor content and personalize engagement with HCPs, Garg said. Since targeted therapies like Exkivity treat small populations of patients, she said using AI and anonymized data can find where they are so the company can educate their relevant HCPs and get the medicine to patients faster. 

“In the old world [during launches] we would have large sales forces with one long visual aid—a 20 to 30 page information download. The model was to reach thousands and thousands of HCPs,” said Garg, who came to Takeda from Novartis in 2020. “There was nothing to help guide where we should go when and what bite-sized information we should deliver.”

Using AI to target messaging to HCPs is becoming more common in pharma. But while some companies use technology from outside firms and rely on the same available data sets, Garg sees a competitive advantage in having Takeda build out its own.

“We’re trying to tailor our content to be most relevant. If all the products in the same basket are using the same algorithm, then it’s a wash,” said Garg.

The Japanese pharma is also tapping Veeva “to help lay a digital foundation,” the company said, though this is separate from the company’s AI technology.

Exkivity, which won FDA approval last September, is an oral drug that treats non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with EGFR exon 20 insertion mutations. The cancer type makes up just 1% to 2% of all NSCLC cases, or about 2,000 to 4,000 patients a year in the U.S.

Takeda has projected peak sales of $300 million to $600 million for the medicine, which just picked up a regulatory approval, in the U.K. last month and competes in the U.S. market with Johnson & Johnson’s Rybrevant. It is Takeda's second targeted lung cancer drug, coming after Alunbrig for ALK-positive disease.