Boehringer ups the ante in IPF drug race with awareness funding

Boehringer Ingelheim, maker of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug Ofev, has been a sponsor of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation since 2011. But now, it's beefing up its support for the organization to raise awareness of the disease.

Earlier this month, the two announced a new 5-year partnership focused heavily on the PFF's Care Center Network. Now comprising 21 U.S. medical centers that care for pulmonary fibrosis patients and offer support services for them and their families, the network plans to expand to 40 sites by the end of this year, BI said.

The German pharma's funding will also go toward PFF's patient registry--which uses medical data to help researchers study the disease--as well as its ambassador program, a support group leader network. It will also cover disease education materials, including a webinar series.

"This 5-year partnership with the PFF will offer critical support and resources for people living with these devastating diseases," Al Masucci, VP of Boehringer's IPF business unit, said in a statement. "… We are pleased to partner with the PFF in its efforts to empower patients to obtain an early diagnosis, high-quality medical care and to advance research leading to healthier outcomes and better quality of life."

Boehringer is hoping that getting the word out on IPF will help Ofev gain ground against archrival Esbriet, a Roche ($RHHBY) drug that won FDA approval the same day it did. The German drugmaker got to work on that even before Ofev won the agency's favor, backing a Discovery Channel documentary on the disease.

Across the pond, though, Ofev has been playing catch-up; Esbriet won European approval in 2011, and Boehringer only nabbed a green light for Ofev on the continent in January of this year.

Still, "the number of patients being treated with Ofev is already greater than anticipated," BI board member Allan Hillgrove recently told pharmaphorum, noting that the company is counting on the drug to be a leader in its class.

- read BI's release

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