Emgality maker Eli Lilly goes local to jump-start migraine conversation with 'Think Talk Treat' campaign

Eli Lilly
Lilly's latest migraine effort is based on data that show more than one-third of patients who didn't seek treatment in the past year thought their migraine would not be taken seriously. (Eli Lilly)

Even as migraine science and drug development leap ahead, the cultural conversation remains stuck in the status quo.

Eli Lilly wants to change that—and it's starting at ground level with its “Think Talk Treat” initiative.

The now-rolling effort—with pilots in four metro areas around the U.S.—was built on patient insights from Lilly’s OVERCOME real-world migraine study. The first cities are Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Indianapolis and Denver.

Why now? Because even with newer drugs—including Lilly's own Emgality and Reyvow—and increased awareness, not much has changed. Patients are still reluctant to seek care, chalking their pain up to just another headache—or worse, hearing that assessment from their doctors—and toughing it out or just using over-the-counter meds.

RELATED: Eli Lilly pins injectable migraine med Emgality against Biohaven's oral rival Nurtec ODT in head-to-head study

Many barriers to care still exist, as shown by Lilly data presented earlier this month at the American Headache Society meeting. In its OVERCOME patient study, 42% of people with migraine said they did not seek care in the past year. While 45% of those people said they preferred to take care of the symptoms on their own, 35% worried their migraine would not be taken seriously.

Other reasons cited for avoiding treatment included believing their attacks were not serious enough (29%), financial considerations (29%) and reimbursement concerns (21%).

The real-world survey included patient-reported assessments of Lilly’s anti-CGRP preventive treatment Emgality and three competitors also approved to prevent attacks—Teva’s Ajovy, Biohaven’s Nurtec and Novartis and Amgen’s Aimovig. 

The patients also evaluated acute treatments, including Lilly's Reyvow, along with competitors Nurtec and AbbVie’s Ubrelvy. The results reported “greater odds of early onset of efficacy” for Reyvow versus the other two.

Lilly and Teva are currently locked in patent battles while still marketing their treatments side-by-side with Novartis and Amgen's market leader Aimovig. Last week, in its own ongoing legal tangle with Aimovig partner Amgen, Novartis handed marketing for Aimovig back to Amgen, cutting 186 Novartis supporting jobs in the process.

RELATED: Teva, after locking up new Ajovy patents, sues Eli Lilly again in heated migraine drug fight

For Lilly's new “Think Talk Treat” migraine rollout, Lilly is beginning with primary care physicians in the four pilot cities. It's reaching out via social, digital and direct communications and convening professional group and healthcare system seminars led by local doctors.

Lilly is also using social media to prompt people to go to the campaign website for resources, which include a checklist for talking to doctors and an ID Migraine tool to help identify migraine.

It also includes a digital management platform and app called Vega. The app is free to download, and people can use it to track pain severity, symptoms and triggers, and manage their medications.

“It’s important to understand that when it comes to preventive and acute treatments, while 40% of people impacted by migraine are eligible for preventive treatment, only 18% actually receive it,” Eric Pearlman, M.D., Lilly’s senior medical director of neuroscience, U.S. medical affairs, said in an email interview.

More than 30 million people in the U.S. have migraine—with women affected three times more often than men. The U.S. healthcare system spends $56 billion a year on migraine care, Lilly said.