GSK partners with Arthritis Foundation as it preps Voltaren for OTC switch

As GlaxoSmithKline prepares Voltaren Arthritis Pain for a sizable prescription-to-OTC switch next month, a new pre-order promotion will donate to the Arthritis Foundation.

Through May 12, the official Voltaren OTC availability day in the U.S., customers can order the NSAID osteoarthritis gel to get first-day at-home delivery through GSK Consumer Healthcare e-commerce partners. Profits from the sales will go to the Arthritis Foundation.

The awareness-building and pre-order effort is underway as behind the scenes, GSK is fine-tuning Voltaren’s prescription to OTC “priority launch” marketing push that will include TV, print, radio, in-store, digital and social advertising.

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GSK has the benefit of lessons learned from the Flonase allergy nasal spray prescription to OTC launch several years ago, said Jissan Cherian, Voltaren marketing director. Many of the same executives are still at GSK Consumer Healthcare—chief marketing officer Amardeep Kahlon, in fact, oversaw the Flonase switch in 2015—and while e-commerce has changed since then, other strategies have carried over.

In-store promotions, for instance, will follow the Flonase lead and use custom display units to educate consumers at point of sale, Cherian said. The multi-channel and extensive ad campaign looks to be another nod to the Flonase model.

The campaign will seek to expand the Voltaren audience based on GSK research that found osteoarthritis begins for some people in their 30s. Without revealing specific creative, Cherian said a range of ages and life stages will be featured and that the brand will look to establish itself as a movement brand. The Voltaren website will be a first-ever for arthritis patients, created to be user friendly for their specific hand movement issues, he said.

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“As we saw with Flonase, once it becomes over the counter, we have an opportunity to engage a very large patient population and that’s exactly what we want to do with Voltaren,” Cherian said.

The Arthritis Foundation partnership began with GSK approaching the group to share research and validate its thinking for Voltaren. That evolved into the current awareness promotion, with the pre-order and e-commerce idea becoming even more relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders developed.