AstraZeneca, Amgen taps E! host Nina Parker for asthma campaign as it hopes new drug Tezspire can 'break the cycle’

AstraZeneca and Amgen got an early Christmas present from the FDA when the agency approved Tezspire on Dec. 17, and they swiftly launched an unbranded awareness and education campaign called “Break the Cycle.” The face of the campaign is E! host Nina Parker, who has asthma and talks about the “misinformation and stigma” around the condition.

The idea behind breaking the cycle is to help patients understand that there's a way to break out of their uncontrolled asthma and not have to reshape their day or use so-called rescue inhalers.

While the campaign does not mention Tezspire directly, this is of course what the drug hopes to help with. The monoclonal antibody gained an FDA nod in severe asthma for use alongside a patient's current medications. The official launch came in mid-January and with a list price of just under $48,000 a year.

Besides the website, AZ and Amgen have gone all-in on the social media side: Nina Parker has used her Instagram account to reference Break The Cycle as well as AZ and Amgen. The pharma pair also tapped medical Instagram influencers Jen Caudle, M.D., and Cedric Rutland, M.D., who also both referenced Break the Cycle.

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Caudle advocates for an asthma risk questionnaire attached to the campaign and on its website: “I’m excited to partner with @BreakTheAsthmaCycle to help you learn more about asthma control! They have the helpful AIRQ (asthma impairment and risk questionnaire) that’s linked in my bio and can help you measure your level of control.”

There’s also a TikTok ad focused on a patient suffering from frequent asthma attacks throughout the day, having to use her inhaler every few hours. The copy in the ad reads, “I feel like I can never put this inhaler down,” and that it’s “exhausting.” The answer: to break the cycle.

Tezspire is pegged to be a future blockbuster for the Big Pharmas, with analysts seeing peak sales in 2030 at $2.5 billion. But there is a large respiratory drug market and a lot of competition out there, which includes blockbuster Dupixent from Sanofi and Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala.

AstraZeneca and Amgen still see an underserved market, however. "There’s 1.3 million people in the U.S. with severe, uncontrolled asthma, but many of these patients don’t realize how much this condition is affecting their everyday lives,” said Elizabeth Bodin, executive director of marketing at AstraZeneca for Tezspire, in an interview with Fierce Pharma Marketing.

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“[These patients] go through their life almost normalizing the cycle they are in: relying on rescue inhalers or changing their medication or changing their plans to avoid asthma triggers. So it gives off an impression that the asthma is controlled, but it really isn’t as it relies on patients reworking their day in order to get that control.”

She said the Break the Cycle campaign was designed to “hold the mirror up” to this and help patients understand that their level of control “is not what they think it is.”

In a phase 3 trial readout last year, the thymic stromal lymphopoietin inhibitor showed that patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma on the drug had fewer exacerbations and better lung function, asthma control and health-related quality of life than those who got a dummy treatment.

And one big plus for Tezspire in its comparison to the Dupixent is its label: While Dupixent’s says that the drug does not show benefit in patients with low levels of eosinophils, there is no such qualifier for Tezspire, which can thus edge in on this market.

In trials, Tezspire indeed showed success in helping a subgroup with low levels of eosinophil white blood cells. Existing asthma drugs such Dupixent and AstraZeneca’s older asthma drug Fasenra target eosinophilic forms of the disease. Patients with noneosinophilic disease have limited treatment options.

There’s more to come from its marketing campaign, but Bodin is staying mum on its future plans for now. AZ and Amgen plan for Break the Cycle to be a core educational campaign, but it will also “be something we build off of as we go deeper into the launch of the brand.” Bodin said they’ve already got some “great insight” from this campaign that can shape how the company communicates with this patient community.

AstraZeneca has a long history in researching, selling and marketing respiratory disease drugs in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and lung cancer. In one of its more recent campaigns, the company tapped "Arrested Development" star Tony Hale to raise awareness about a blood test for severe asthma for Fasenra.

For the Fasenra campaign, which started a few years ago, AZ encouraged people to think about living a “Bigger Life.”