Sunovion illustrates bipolar depression patients' emotions with art-driven Latuda spot

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Sunovion changed direction with its Latuda bipolar depression advertising, switching from individual stories to a broader group of patient-plus-art stories. (Alpha Stock Images)(Alpha Stock Images - link to - http://alphastockimages.com/)

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals turned to artwork for its latest Latuda TV commercial. Paintings inspired by real stories of people with bipolar depression are held by actors who resemble the men and women in the portraits.

In one painting, a woman with her eyes closed hunches into a chair in a dim room, while in another, a woman sits at the end of her bed and screams into a pillow. A voiceover intones, “Bipolar depression. It's is a dark, lonely place." 

As the new 60-second spot progresses, both the live scenes and the painting become more cheerful. The images begin to include family and friends gathered around a fire, walking outside on a dock or dancing.

The "Real Expressions" campaign, which began running in September, is a departure from Latuda's long-running "My Story" TV commercials that focused on individual people and first-person accounts (using actors) of how bipolar depression affects them and the ones they love.

That campaign began in 2016, and since then, Sunovion has spent more than $330 million on national media time slots, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv. Sunovian has shelled out $9CK million on the new "Real Expressions" ad in its first two weeks on air.

RELATED: Allergan puts Vraylar on blockbuster track with new bipolar depression nod

Latuda was initially approved in 2010 to treat schizophrenia, but it added a bipolar depression indication in 2013. Sales of Latuda in North America totaled $1.74 billion in 2019, an increase over 2018's $1.66 billion haul. Latuda's fiscal first quarter sales, from April through June, checked in at $493 million in North America, marking year-over-year growth from the $445 million it generated in the first quarter of 2019. Sunovion reported sales in line with forecasts and did not see an impact from COVID-19.

When the pandemic first began, Sunovion added a subtle reference to the difficulties surrounding COVID-19, reworking the end of its Latuda ad for depression to say, “During this time, we’re here for you. For resources and co-pay savings options, visit Latuda.com.”

The new ad does not use the same voiceover message, although a text overlay at the end of the spot directs patients to latuda.com for cost and co-pay savings. 

Latuda competes with Allergan’s Vraylar, which last year scored an approval to treat bipolar 1. Intra-Cellular is also looking to enter the category with Caplyta, a drug currently approved for schizophrenia. Intra-Celluar recently reported positive phase 3 data that showed Caplyta in combination with lithium or valproate led to significant improvement in depression over placebo in patients with bipolar disorder. Intra-Cellular plans to file for the expanded label late this year or early in 2021.