GSK appeals to parents with latest meningitis B commercial

GlaxoSmithKline GSK House in Brentford, UK
GSK urges parents to consider the risks of meningitis B for college students in its ongoing awareness campaign. (GlaxoSmithKline)

Back to college usually means meningitis vaccine marketing, and that's exactly what GlaxoSmithKline is doing. It recently boosted its meningitis B awareness push with a second animated commercial added to the rotation for a campaign begun in 2018.

The new TV ad depicts a young woman lying in a dorm bed too sick to even answer her phone. A female voice-over says, “This is not just a headache. This is not just a fever. This is not just the flu. It’s meningitis B, and you’re not there to help.”

Talking directly to parents of college-bound teens, the new ad maintains GSK’s messaging from the ongoing campaign that encourages parents to act. A GSK spokesperson said via email that “the need for education is great” in light of the fact that vaccinations for the rare but serious disease remain low. College students can face a higher risk of meningitis related to their more communal and sharing lifestyle. 

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RELATED: New MenB awareness drive backs up vaccine makers GSK, Pfizer

Only about half (51%) of pediatricians and 31% of family doctors initiated a conversation about meningitis B during routine visits for 16-to 18-year-olds, according to a study published in Pediatrics magazine last fall.

A recent call to action by seven leading pediatric and family healthcare associations encourages doctors to use 16-year-old checkups as a platform to make sure immunizations are being met, and it includes suggestions for both types of meningitis vaccines.

"The 16-year-old visit is the perfect opportunity for the physician to administer the second dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), the flu vaccine, and discuss the MenB vaccine,” the American Academy of Family Physicians’ president, John Cullen, said in a news release.

GSK makes Bexsero, which competes with the only other meningitis B vaccine on the market, Pfizer’s Trumenba. Bexsero leads in market share, but its sales growth slowed in 2018. GSK reported sales of £584 million, which was a 9% increase over the previous year. In 2017, Bexsero sales of £556 million marked a 34% jump over 2016's haul. Pfizer reported 2018 Trumenba sales of $21 million, up from $9 million in 2017. Trumenba was approved in October 2014, while Bexsero was approved in January 2015.

RELATED: Pfizer's Trumenba just got closer to a new FDA nod. Can it catch up to GlaxoSmithKline's Bexsero?

“GSK takes seriously our role as a partner in protecting public health and is committed to providing vaccines for vaccine-preventable diseases, including meningitis B,” the GSK spokesperson said. “We are also committed to providing the critical education required for all stakeholders—public health officials, health care providers and patients— about this uncommon but potentially fatal disease so that patients and health care professionals can have discussions about vaccination options.”

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