Chasing blockbuster sales, Jazz backs AHA to bang the drum about links between sleep and heart disease

Jazz Pharmaceuticals is stepping up its support for the American Heart Association (AHA). Through the expanded relationship, the AHA will bang the drum about the links between sleep disorders and heart disease—and potentially drive patients to Jazz’s narcolepsy drug Xywav in the process.

In July 2020, Jazz won FDA approval of Xywav, a drug that contains 92% less sodium than its predecessor Xyrem. Months later, the drugmaker backed the AHA’s work to create sleep health educational content. The association’s interest in sleep health is underpinned by evidence that narcolepsy is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular events. 

Jazz has generated some of the evidence itself and made Xywav’s lower levels of sodium, a contributor to cardiovascular disease, a key plank of its messaging as it seeks to differentiate the drug from Xyrem. As part of the push, the drugmaker has upped its support for the AHA.

The expansion of Jazz’s support will enable the AHA to develop education for patients and healthcare providers on the impact of sleep disorders on heart and brain health as well as on strategies for lowering the cardiovascular risks linked to sleep disorders. Plans include the convening of a science advisory panel of healthcare providers, production of patient videos and the formation of an alliance of sleep-focused advocacy organizations to develop “a resource toolkit to expand the reach of the campaign's education.”

“Research continues to demonstrate that people with sleep disorders like narcolepsy may face even greater risk for heart disease and stroke than the general population," Mitch Elkind, M.D., chief clinical science officer at the AHA, said in a statement. “As the scientific community continues to explore this important topic, it's critical that people with sleep disorders and those who care for them recognize the connection and optimally manage the cardiovascular complications.”

Sales of Xywav hit $281.4 million, climbing 54% to fall just short of $1 billion for the full year. Xywav looks set to join the blockbuster club in 2023 and cement its status as Jazz’s biggest product. The message pushed by the AHA is one of the keys to the successful launch.

Talking to investors at the start of March, Dan Swisher, Jazz’s president, said “there are now more narcolepsy patients on Xywav than Xyrem, indicating our sodium messaging is resonating with healthcare providers and patients.”