Jazz Pharmaceuticals started prepping the ground last year for its new sleep drug launch, and now it's official: The biopharma's Sunosi is rolling out this week with branded doctor advertising, a stepped-up sales force and digital direct-to-consumer pitches, too.
Jazz’s plan aims to take advantage of an FDA approval not only in narcolepsy, as its predecessor Xyrem boasts, but also in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). That's a sizable base of potential customers: Jazz estimates 12 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with OSA, but it believes many others have gone undiagnosed.
The marketing task is different for sleepiness related to OSA, though, because the current treatment rate is much lower than it is in narcolepsy, Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd said. “So in the case of narcolepsy patients, I think it’s what treatment are they going to use, and in the case of OSA patients, for many of them it will be getting treatment at all."
The consumer digital, social and in-office efforts build on Sunosi’s website, which points out that “amazing things happen during the day,” while a drowsy man fails to notice the flying saucer and flying pig hovering his window."
The branded work follows a sleep apnea awareness push Jazz launched last October as it awaited approval for Sunosi, also known as solriamfetol.
Called “A Different Kind of Tired,” the awareness campaign centered on research that found 36% of sleep apnea patients missed activities or events, avoided social situations or gave up activities because of excessive sleepiness. Half of their partners said their relationship had suffered.
And in a scary statistic, 14% said they had fallen asleep at the wheel, either at a stop sign or red light, during the past year.
“In today’s society, sleepiness is almost worn as a badge of honor. ‘I work so hard and I don’t get enough sleep,’ That’s viewed as OK,” Cozadd said.
“Obviously for these patients and this disease it’s not at all OK," he said, "and helping to educate them that what they’re viewing as normal is not normal we think will lead more patients to get better treatment and have a better life.”
With its physician campaign, Jazz is targeting sleep specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists and pulmonologists. Its message for the sleep apnea audience? Despite the compliant use of CPAP machines, many patients still suffer from sleepiness during the day.
Delivering that message to doctors will be Jazz' sales force, which includes 50 additional sales representatives hired in the U.S. to handle Sunosi.
Jazz held a private investor call last week which included several experts to talk about excessive daytime sleepiness in both narcolepsy and sleep apnea, clinical trial data, label information and launch.