Xyrem campaign from under-fire Jazz keeps narcolepsy awareness at the fore

Jazz Pharmaceuticals continues its narcolepsy disease awareness campaign.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals' narcolepsy disease awareness campaign recently got a renewed push. The company, as part of its "More than Tired" campaign, reaired its TV spot before the U.S. presidential election, although as Newsweek commented postelection in an article, "With Trump far less likely to pursue drug pricing reform policies than Clinton," companies suffering from drug-pricing pushback—such as Jazz—"can probably breathe a lot easier."

Jazz is the maker of Xyrem, FDA approved to treat the symptoms of narcolepsy. But the company has come under fire in recent years as the drug’s price increased by 841% between 2007 and 2014.

The back-in-action commercial portrays sufferers of the disease falling asleep uncontrollably as they go about their daily lives. "I feel tired all the time," one man's narrates, as the camera shows him dozing off on public transportation. 

The narcolepsy effort initially began as a TV and digital pilot in a handful of cities three years ago, but the company has since expanded it to include more regions, added print media and optimized for new media.

The awareness campaign was built around Jazz survey insights that found that while people had heard of narcolepsy, general understanding of the disease was extremely low. The survey also found that physicians, including sleep specialists, were not completely comfortable diagnosing the disorder, a Jazz spokeswoman said in an email interview with FiercePharma.

“We believe that, over time, a targeted narcolepsy awareness initiative may increase the number of patients diagnosed with narcolepsy and may help reduce the time from disorder onset to diagnosis,” she said.

Jazz’s disease awareness campaign includes an effort targeted at healthcare providers, called NarcolepsyLink. The goal of that effort is to improve their recognition, screening and diagnosis of the disease, the spokeswoman said.

More recently, analysts had raised concerns that renewed focus on pricing due to the presidential election might put the company in political crosshairs.

With Xyrem making up almost three-fourths of Jazz’ total sales, “the thought process here is that Jazz's price bumps on Xyrem could draw unwanted attention, which is worrisome,” wrote Motley Fool’s Sean Williams on Business Insider. However, that article was written the week before the election, with Williams specifically mentioning a Hillary Clinton White House. He also added, “Management believes it's done its part to insulate patients from the price increases by providing copay assistance, and there isn't anything definitive to suggest otherwise.”