Make it rain: SK goes all the way on innovation as it brings simulated storm to neurology conference

SK Life Science goes the whole hog when trying to get eyeballs on its anti-seizure treatment Xcopri—and it wants physicians to apply a similar ethos when treating epilepsy. The message? Going “Half Way” isn’t enough for epilepsy patients.

The “Half Way” campaign is underpinned by evidence that Xcopri is better at totally preventing seizures than the drugs above it in the epilepsy care pathway. While SK lacks head-to-head clinical data on rates of seizure prevention, it is using the cross-trial comparison to make the case that patients have a better shot of being seizure free if they use Xcopri and reemphasizing its message that zero seizures is the goal.

SK is bringing the message to the American Academy of Neurology's (AAN's) 75th annual meeting in Boston this week. As Stephanie Loiseau, head of marketing at SK, explained, the focus is on catching the eye of the general neurologists, for whom epilepsy is just one of many diseases they treat.  

“We had to do something that was going to really stick out and make epilepsy something that physicians want to come to our booth for, so we wanted something with stopping power. That's why we have a simulated rainstorm. Obviously, we wanted to bring in actual rain into the building but were not able to make that happen,” Loiseau said.

Instead, SK has a simulated rainstorm with LED lights, a “huge screen,” sound effects and “the smell of fresh rain,” Loiseau said. The rainstorm is the setup for another prop: half an umbrella.

Just as having half an umbrella is unacceptable in a rainstorm, SK wants neurologists to think that a 50% fall in seizures is unacceptable when treating epilepsy. The overarching message: don’t go halfway, go all the way. 

The booth is the latest in a series of eye-catching promotions for Xcopri. Last year, SK gave its sales reps a box containing work boots to tell the story of Matt, a person who went from having 24 seizures a year to zero seizures after taking Xcopri. Before that, SK had an escape room at AAN to show how patients feel trapped by epilepsy. The innovation is the result of a concerted push to jolt how physicians think.

“We're the new kids on the block. It's about providing awareness about SK as an organization, as well as about Xcopri,” Loiseau said. “All these different ideas, it's really about having that stopping power, and having physicians think differently. We have to do things differently. We want them to think differently.”

The need to stand out is arguably even more important in the current phase of SK’s marketing push than in its initial wave of promotion. Xcopri is now the No. 1 prescribed branded anti-seizure medicine with epileptologists, Loiseau said, and as such the general neurologists targeted by the AAN booth are the key to the next big growth opportunity. 

SK is trying to get general neurologists to use Xcopri “further up the treatment ladder” in the belief that more patients will be seizure free if the drug is given earlier in the care pathway, Matthew Linkewich, chief commercial officer at SK, said. The challenge is general neurologists are used to working through the same few treatment options before passing on to an epileptologist if none of the drugs are effective.

“If we can get Xcopri on board earlier in the equation, patients will benefit from that in a big way. But they need experience and they need an understanding in terms of how that will actually all play out. And that's what we're trying to drive,” Linkewich said.