Jakafi maker Incyte channels blood testing anxiety in awareness ads

Incyte has captured the anxiety and fear someone with polycythemia vera (PV) feels before getting their blood count tested in a new 30-second spot, "Frozen in Time.”

A man sits up in bed, tense and jittery, as his wife sleeps peacefully beside him. Memories flash all around him.

Then, a voiceover intones, "When you have fluctuating blood counts it's difficult to think beyond your next test. Before another night passes visit keepingcounts.com." This link takes the viewer from the unbranded awareness ad to Incyte’s webpage for Jakafi, a PV treatment.

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PV is among a group of myeloproliferative neoplasms, rare chronic blood cancers. As with many rare diseases, these are often misunderstood or misdiagnosed. John Krukiel, Incyte’s VP of product strategy in oncology, said one of the biggest disservices to these patients is the idea that these are “the good cancers.”

“There's a significant amount of disease burden that oftentimes goes unrecognized and again leaves these patients feeling like they don't have the support (they need),” he said.

One of the problems with PV is fluctuating blood counts that, if left unchecked, can lead to serious side effects. Incyte decided to focus on these counts in the advertising, “to acknowledge how people with PV may be feeling while they're waiting on their blood test results, and just help them understand that the fluctuating blood counts, and all these uncertainties that you kind of saw throughout the commercial that they could probably be managed better,” Krukiel said.

The response from the community has been relief, Krukiel said. Because PV symptoms are rarely visible, the spot’s validation of both the emotions patients feel and the disease itself is a welcomed education for others—even healthcare providers and family members.

The ad debuted on linear TV in select markets in mid-September, with 15- and 60-second versions available online. The campaign taps digital and social media in a significant way, including banner ads aimed directly at the PV community. The effort rounds out with a complementary print campaign.

Incyte ran a similar media push a few years ago focusing more on the symptoms of PV, rather than blood counts.

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In addition to treating blood cancers, Jakafi, the oral version of ruxolitinib, is also used to treat acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), as well as chronic GVHD after patients fail on one or two lines of systemic therapy. Jakafi’s sister drug, the topical cream, Opzelura, was approved to treat mild to moderate atopic dermatitis last month.