Ingrezza-maker Neurocrine brings tardive dyskinesia awareness to the tube

Neurocrine's TD awareness ad features animated sketches. (Neurocrine)

While 2017 saw the entrance of the first two drugs for tardive dyskinesia, the percentage of TD patients who are actually diagnosed remains in the single digits. Neurocrine is looking to change that with a brand-new TV spot.

The San Diego drugmaker, which markets Ingrezza, recently released an awareness commercial that features a woman discussing her experience with the involuntary movement disorder.

“Before I was diagnosed by my doctor, I didn’t know why my body was moving like it had a mind of its own,” she says, adding that “My eyes blinked way too much, even though I didn’t mean to,” and, “My fingers moved like they were playing a piano that wasn’t there.” Animated sketches depict the movements before a voiceover directs people to visit TalkAboutTD.com or call for a free brochure and discussion guide.

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Because “you can only get so much information across in a 60-second television commercial,” the digital piece of the effort is vital, Neurocrine CEO Kevin Gorman said in an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference earlier this month. The website “gives them more information and gives them the tools they need to be able to go in and speak with their physician,” he said.

RELATED: New Neurocrine, Teva meds win doctors' praise, fueling bigger sales expectations

The campaign has been in the works for nearly a year, and during that time Neurocrine sought input from patients, doctors and patient advocacy groups. Late last year, it took the ad out to eight test markets across the United States, making sure to listen carefully for “any negative blowback.”

“We monitor social media really carefully and stay close to the physicians to see if they have any complaints about it,” but “we did not get any,” Gorman said.

Now, the ad will run primarily on cable channels, and the company is leaving room to tweak its strategy along the way as it picks up lessons from the first go-round.

Neurocrine has been doubling down on its promotional efforts away from the screen, too. Last quarter, it added 80 sales reps, taking its total to above 200.

While the new hires have, on average, 15 years of sales experience in psychiatry and neurology, their activities at Neurocrine will be “very different” from what they’re used to, Gorman said.

“Normally, they’d be going in and talking about the attributes of their drug. Now, what they’re doing is going in and talking about … the physician’s practice and how they can start recognizing and screening their patients for TD. Only after the physicians and staff are up to a certain level of education can we start talking about the drug Ingrezza,” Gorman said.

RELATED: Neurocrine's 3rd Ingrezza flop in Tourette dashes hopes for sales expansion

But while the new group adjusts, the original team has sales on the right track, if Neurocrine’s fourth-quarter revenue preannouncement is any indication. Ahead of JPM, the company touted $130 million in quarterly Ingrezza sales, a figure that topped consensus estimates by $7 million despite competition from Teva’s Austedo.

“We think the $130 million is encouraging,” Jefferies analyst Biren Amin wrote at the time, noting that investors had previously been concerned that total prescriptions “could be flattening.” The Q4 number indicates prescription growth “re-accelerates,” Amin added.

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