AstraZeneca taps Biggest Loser host Bob Harper for heart attack survivors push

Bob Harper knows the ins and outs of being a survivor firsthand: The Biggest Loser coach and fitness guru suffered an unexpected and near-fatal heart attack in February. Now, Harper has teamed with AstraZeneca to raise awareness and create community for survivors in a campaign that asks people to write personal essays telling their stories.

Called “Survivors Have Heart,” the online effort will take submissions of 500-word-or-less essays from heart attack survivors from the last three years. Five stories will be chosen, and the winners will be given a trip to New York, where they will meet with Harper and be inducted as the first members of the Survivors Club, a heart attack survivor’s network. The goal of the campaign is to let heart attack survivors know they don’t have to go it alone on the complex journey after an attack.

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AstraZeneca reached out to Harper after hearing his survivor story to partner on an effort and discovered that he'd been prescribed the company's own clot-fighting drug Brilinta as part of his recovery plan.

“Our mission with Survivors Have Heart is that these stories are heard and that patients can feel a connection to one another’s journey to enable them to continue to play an active role to reduce the risk of having another heart attack,” said Kiersten Combs, AstraZeneca executive director, cardiovascular, in an email interview.

Harper, as spokesman, will appear on behalf of the campaign in communications and promotional channels including traditional and online media, she said.

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Harper said in a news release, “Being a heart attack survivor adds you to a club you never want to join, but once you are a part of it, you feel bonded by the experience. As survivors, we carry each other and together, with the support of networks like Survivors Have Heart, we can make a meaningful difference in raising awareness on how to navigate this complex journey.”

AstraZeneca is also running a Brilinta DTC TV ad campaign in the spring featuring real heart attack survivors. Sales of the drug are on the upswing; in the first half of this year, Brilinta pulled in almost $500 million in sales, up 28% over last year. New scripts in the U.S. also grew more than a third.