Boehringer Ingelheim taps Facebook Live to spread scleroderma awareness

Boehringer Ingelheim is looking to expand its compound nintedanib to treat some scleroderma patients. And in preparation, it’s looking to expand awareness about the disease, too.

The company recently rolled out “More Than Scleroderma: The Inside Story,” which features a collection of photos and video profiles of 10 scleroderma patients across the U.S. Each patient shares his or her story, along with personal insights and messages of hope.

One story featured a mother and daughter both living with the disease, and it detailed their process of adjusting to their diagnosis and symptoms, Al Masucci, VP of Boehringer’s Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) business unit, said in an email interview.

“Patient stories also often facilitate greater understanding of the disease in a deep and authentic way and can provide hope to those facing a difficult disease journey,” he said.

Earlier this month, the company conducted a Facebook Live in conjunction with the campaign, streaming from the Systemic Sclerosis World Congress in Bordeaux, France. The broadcast featured a three-patient panel moderated by Robert Riggs, CEO of the Scleroderma Foundation, and generated “overwhelming engagement,” Masucci said.

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That engagement “confirmed the importance of continuing to use Facebook Live to connect with this community, along with others. Social media is intended to be shared—so, especially in instances like this where we are trying to raise disease awareness, this is an extremely important tool to utilize,” he said, adding that “We use Facebook Live to break down barriers.”

The event wasn’t Boehringer’s only social media effort around the campaign. Its “More Than Scleroderma” website and the info it features “have all been designed for sharing through social media to facilitate broader education,” Masucci said.

Boehringer is hoping it’ll soon be able to offer more than inspiration and information to scleroderma patients with associated interstitial lung disease. It’s studying nintedanib—already approved for IPF as Ofev and for lung cancer in the EU as Vargatef—in a phase 3 trial in that population.

So far, though, when it comes to nintedanib expansion efforts, the company has met with mixed results. In October, 2016, it revealed that the drug had missed one of its primary endpoints in a phase 3 study of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Meanwhile, BI is still working to promote the Ofev in IPF, where it competes against Roche’s Esbriet. The German drugmaker recently launched a social media campaign outside the U.S. that’s aimed at doctors. The effort, entitled “Why Wait in IPF?,” encourages treatment intervention early in the disease.