Doctors, dogs and diabetes: Boehringer and Lilly turn to furry friends for CV risk videos

Drs. Javed Butler Keith Ferdinand walk and talk with Maggie the labradoodle in BI and Lilly's new video about type 2 diabetes and heart risk. (Boehringer Ingelheim)

Call it "doctors with dogs in cafés getting coffee." Inspired by the Jerry Seinfeld web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly's new video series teams a cardiologist host, a dog and a guest physician to raise awareness of diabetes-related heart disease.

The idea is to engage the target audience—cardiologists, endocrinologists and primary care physicians who treat type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease—in collaborative dialogue.

And the dogs? They’re cute and audience-engaging of course, but also a healthy add-on for this group of patients. Research shows owning a dog can decrease the risk of cardiovascular death by more than 30%. Plus it’s a good opportunity for doctors to show their passion for heart health and for dogs, too, said Graham Goodrich, Boehringer's VP of diabetes marketing.

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The first video in the "Unleashing the Truth" series begins with host cardiologist Javed Butler and Maggie the labradoodle on a “walk and talk” in New Orleans with cardiologist Keith Ferdinand, a professor of medicine at Tulane University. Butler will host all four videos, which each will feature a different dog, physician guest and home city.

“Often, a patient living with diabetes will transition from their cardiologist to primary care to maybe an endocrinologist, and there’s a question about who owns their cardiovascular risk," Goodrich said. "Who should take control? This campaign is designed to connect those different physician groups to talk about type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk and how they can work together to assist patients."

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In the first video, Butler points out that patients need a team approach to fight diabetes and its complications. “Diabetes is connected to heart disease, so we need to stay connected to our patients. This is something we have to work on together,” he says.

The doctor chat videos, which will be released over the next year, add to Boehringer and Lilly’s ongoing campaigns to raise awareness of type 2 diabetes and its link to cardiovascular risks. The drugmakers have recruited two celebrity spokespeople for that effort, actress Angela Bassett and "Bachelor" doctor Travis Stork.

The CV link isn't just a campaign feature, though; it's also on a drug label key to the partners' sales efforts. Their SGLT2 inhibitor Jardiance has a first-in-class FDA approval to tout its ability to cut the risk of cardiovascular death in adults with Type 2 diabetes and CV disease. It’s now among several diabetes drugs,—including Novo Nordisk’s Victoza, Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana and AstraZeneca’s Farxiga—with heart disease indications.

Goodrich said the unmet need in diabetes heart health, along with advances in treatment and newer guidelines around implementation, drive the new work.

“We know that guidelines take a while to take root, and what we’re trying to do is use this campaign to speed up the implementation of the guidelines in clinical settings,” he said.