Khloe Kardashian’s pain—or rather, her relief from pain—may be Biohaven’s gain.
The social media and reality TV super star, who has more than 100 million followers, suffers from debilitating migraines dating back to the sixth grade. A few months ago, though, she tried Nurtec ODT and found pain relief she hadn’t had before.
Biohaven, a small biotech that sells the dissolvable CGRP inhibitor, reached out to Kardashian in light of her migraine history; she often talks about her headaches in media and online. And as the saying goes, the rest was history. Kardashian is now the paid spokesperson in Biohaven’s just-launched “Take Back Today” campaign.
The social media and public relations campaign launched this week with Kardashian’s appearance on TV talk show “The View.” She talked about her reality show, motherhood and finally finding migraine relief. One of the show's co-hosts, Whoopi Goldberg, said that as a migraine sufferer herself she was keen to hear about Kardashian’s new med.
“After my pregnancy, my migraines increased. And so they would normally come in the mornings and I would be wiped out for the day. But with this fast dissolvable, I get my day back,” Kardashian said, referring to Nurtec’s oral disposable tablet (ODT) dosing method.
Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric said Kardashian’s powerful media platform combined with her real-life experience is a fortuitous overlap in the evolution of the young migraine med. Nurtec was approved in February and launched in March, but already has a 48% market share in the oral CGRP field—and that was before this campaign.
“Her media platform is so powerful. As a drug developer, I’ll say it’s hard enough developing a drug, but then you have to transfer the knowledge to people that there is a new drug available. So this gets to what I’ve talked about for a long time—we want to be a modern-day company and that means using things like social media, telemedicine and other ways to get the word out,” he said.
For now, the Take Back Today campaign revolves around the website, social media and Kardashian’s handful of media appearances coming up in the next few weeks, but Coric said it could evolve into other efforts.
Kardashian is actually pretty typical among the Nurtec success stories featured in Biohaven's marketing. Its DTC campaign and other awareness efforts include real migraine patients who talk about similar experiences trying different OTC and prescription drugs for years with minimal success and unpleasant side effects. Nurtec clinical trials found about two-thirds of patients experienced pain relief with the CGRP antagonist medicine.
Nurtec is one of two oral CGRP meds now approved to treat acute migraine. AbbVie’s Ubrelvy, which was approved under the Allergan brand in December, is the other. Three other CGRP blockers approved in 2019—Novartis’ Aimovig, Teva’s Ajovy, and Eli Lilly’s Emgality—are preventative treatments for migraines and are injectables dosed monthly or quarterly.
“What I was struck by when I talked to Khloe is that she said for years people have asked her what she does for a migraine and what helps her, but she said she never responded back because she didn’t want people to be hopeless about it, but the reality was for her nothing really helped,” Coric said.
Kardashian’s modern marketing style fits with Biohaven in its goal as a small biopharma to be nimble and experimental in marketing its drugs. Nurtec is its first approval, but the company has already worked to lean into new ideas. Its recent hookup with storytelling group The Moth, for instance.
Another instance was its acceleration of the Nurtec DTC campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of the effort to get at-home treatment for migraine available more quickly.
Coric drove to the home of one of Nurtec’s real-life patient spokespeople Ellie Wiese—who appears online and in its DTC ads—to shoot a social media ad on his iPhone to tout the news that Nurtec could be prescribed by a telemedicine visit with physicians. Biohaven inked a deal with migraine telemedicine platform Cove in April to widen out-of-office availability.
Another influential but unpaid spokesman is real-life migraine sufferer and morning financial talk show host Jim Cramer, who has mentioned his success with the drug. Coric has appeared on the show to talk about Biohaven's business, but Cramer’s migraine success and mentions are his own.