Biohaven accelerates DTC campaign timing for migraine med Nurtec

Biohaven just launched its DTC campaign for Nurtec ODT in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—on purpose.

The anti-CGRP migraine medicine just got an FDA nod in February, and the company is still ramping up its 500-member sales team. However, the crisis necessitated a quicker-than-normal turnaround for the DTC campaign, Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric said.

“Companies often have sales forces in the field for a few months before starting direct-to-consumer messaging, but we did accelerate because we had to get the message out to patients throughout this time of social distancing. We’re part of the drug supply chain and we have to get treatments to people with migraines. This can be the worst time to have a migraine,” he said, adding not only that stress can spark migraines but also that it's important to try to keep people with migraines out of primary care offices and ERs.

The TV, digital and social campaign, called “Onederful,” features several migraine patients, including one who started on Nurtec during clinical trials two years ago. Ellie Weise is a young woman who in the TV ad is shown at work closing her eyes and breathing deeply while fighting off a migraine, but then transitioning to a wide smile as she works out in an exercise class.

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The idea behind the campaign is the play on the word "wonderful," using the “one” connecting strand that runs through the drug’s delivery and action. It’s one dose that can be taken up to one time a day and it begins to have an effect in one hour, Coric explained. Digital and social media, along with sales reps' virtual efforts with webinars, virtual meetings and sampling to doctors, are included in the campaign.

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Weise said she was pleased at how true to life the ad turned out and noted that Biohaven and the director (who also suffered from migraines) willingly accepted input. For the exercise scene, for instance, the script called for a cycling class, but Weise suggested the loud music and flashing lights in that kind of class probably wouldn’t be a first choice for most migraine sufferers. So it was scrapped for the weights and movement class in which she is featured.

Coric was realistic in surmising that COVID-19 will likely dampen the Nurtec launch, but he also thinks Biohaven’s concerted DTC push and dedicated digital sales force effort can still translate to a successful rollout. Along with the DTC campaign, Biohaven announced a collaboration with the Cove telemedicine network so that patients who visit the Nurtec website can schedule an evaluation and, if appropriate, get a prescription for Nurtec delivered to their home or local pharmacy. Biohaven is also offering $0 copay cards that it is now extending through the end of the year.

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Sales are going well so far, Coric noted, with second-week sales notching 50% growth over the first week. He said the goal for now is “regular sustained momentum and week-over-week growth,” and then on the other side of the pandemic, the company will be looking to push Nurtec out in an even bigger way.

“Biohaven being a new pharmaceutical means we were built from the beginning for virtual interactions,” he said. “The digital detailing occurring while we’re launching the DTC ‘Onederful’ campaign and then adding the telemedicine are all meant to complement one another. A modern-day pharma company should be focused on those (multiple) types of interactions and not having to put a sales rep in every physicians’ office."

RELATED: Biohaven embraces digital to keep migraine launch on track despite COVID-19

Nurtec is facing off against other new migraine treatments in Allergan’s Ubrelvy and Eli Lilly’s Reyvow—which both debuted in January—in addition to older therapies.