Eli Lilly’s new psoriasis treatment Taltz launches first ads, chasing Novartis’ Cosentyx lead

Playing catch-up in the next-gen psoriasis market, Eli Lilly is going all out with its first ad campaign for Taltz, promising “a chance at completely clear skin.” In Lilly’s crosshairs? Novartis’ Cosentyx, which has had a 14-month lead in getting to market first with an IL-17 inhibitor.

In the first three weeks of the campaign, Eli Lilly has already spent more than $9 million on TV ads, according to data from real-time TV tracker iSpot.tv. However, with its longer lead time, Cosentyx has spent more than $51 million on its TV ad “See Me,” which features real patients, since launch in January 2015.

Novartis has also backed several psoriasis disease awareness efforts, partnering with singer songwriter Cyndi Lauper and body paint artist Natalie Fletcher--both psoriasis sufferers--on separate campaigns, and partnering on another with professional fashion photographer Rick Guidotti.

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Lynn Price, who heads immunology at intelligence provider Spherix Global Insights, gave FiercePharma her assessment in the now head-to-head battle. Now that Lilly has launched its Taltz consumer campaign, "we can expect some increase in patient awareness and requests for the brand," she said in an email interview. 

But "if we use Cosentyx requests as a proxy, we should not anticipate the campaign to have a major impact on patient requests," she noted. Despite Cosentyx's active DTC campaign, it still ranks significantly lower than Celgene's Otezla, AbbVie's Humira, Amgen's Enbrel and Johnson & Johnson's Stelara with regard to the frequency of psoriasis patients requests,” she said.

Price noted the great promise of Taltz and Cosentyx, which have both achieved “unprecedented efficacy results.” Cosentyx, already on the market for more than a year, is already carving a niche as a major player among future psoriasis contenders, she said, which means Taltz may have a more difficult time doing the same. Being a year late and second to the party will have a significant impact on uptake and short-term use, Price said.

“I think that near-term, Cosentyx is and will most likely continue to reap the benefits from extended exposure in the market" compared with Taltz," she said. But the way she sees it, "the critical piece determining who will come out on top in the long-run will be insurance mandates and costs; according to our research, the most commonly reported barrier to increased use of biologic agents is insurance and cost issues. With the two products so similar, and both yielding highly effective psoriasis clearance, long-term advantage will boil down to which of the two is easier to prescribe via an approval standpoint and cheaper for the patient,” she added.

The two, however, won’t have the market to themselves for long. Although Cosentyx has already picked up indications for psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Valeant ($VRX) and Merck ($MRK) all have competing products in their pipelines.

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