AstraZeneca launches first Ultomiris ad amid tight market battle with argenx

A year after nabbing FDA approval for its rare disease drug Ultomiris in generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG), AstraZeneca has launched the first TV ad for the therapy.

For AstraZeneca, this ad is a walk in the woods. Literally, it focuses on a couple enjoying a simple stroll in nature, something that for many suffering with gMG can be beyond their reach.

That’s because this rare condition is a chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles, leading to struggle with movement including walking.

The commercial opens up with two patients getting ready for the day with a description of the med by the narrator intoning that the drug has “lasting symptom control” and also highlighting that the therapy only needs an infusion every eight weeks, double the time of its rival.

The pair then meet up for a walk in the woods with no signs of struggle, depicting the benefits of the therapy.

Alexion developed Ultomiris, and the drug was later subsumed under the AZ umbrella in a $39 billion deal penned at the end of 2020. In 2018, the med was approved to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), and a year later it nabbed a label for atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome.

AZ is no stranger to this rare disease, having since 2017 marketed the blockbuster med Soliris for the condition as well as for PNH and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome. The U.K. Big Pharma snapped up Alexion precisely for this med, which is being maneuvered to help shore up lost revenue from Soliris when it starts to lose patent protection toward the end of the decade.

The drug competes with argenx’s gMG drug Vyvgart, which grabbed FDA approval in December 2021. Soliris and Ultomiris are C5 inhibitors, while Vyvgart is a neonatal Fc receptor blocker.

Argenx has already launched ads for its med, with its first released in January 2022, just a month after its approval. That first ad featured four real patients talking about why they need a new treatment option—they want to get up and get ready for their day, take care of their animals, go out to dinner with friends and smile in family photos.

Argenx ran a second ad in May 2022, dubbed “The Picture is Changing,” that sees a man slowly get up and walk across a garden party happening at a much faster pace around him, but then he matches their speed as Vyvgart helps change the picture around him.