Novartis teams with celeb designer Berkus for AMD push—and home tips, too

TV personality and interior designer Nate Berkus teamed with Novartis for helpful at-home tips for people with age-related macular degeneration, such as contrasting dark and light colors. (Allergan)

There’s no place like home. That’s especially true for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients who worry about losing their independence along with their vision.

So as Novartis awaits a priority review for its wet AMD candidate brolucizumab, it's driving awareness in a new digital campaign with well-known interior designer Nate Berkus. Besides spreading the word about wet AMD, the push offers tips and advice for creating a vision-friendly home.

For instance, contrasting colors can help AMD patients identify objects. Black coffee in a white cup or light-colored bedding in a dark-carpeted room can mean the difference between safety and a hot spill or a fall.

That tip—Color & Contrast—is one of five key pieces of advice in the My Home in Sight kit available via the campaign website. The kit also includes tools such as a personal lens magnifier to help people read the materials.

“Simple changes patients can make in their homes can really help. They just didn’t know about them,” said Austin Song, Novartis associate director of consumer marketing in retina. “For example, when you put broccoli on a green plate, because of changing vision, a lot of times patients have a hard time seeing it. By putting broccoli on a white plate, you can see your food.”

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The guide draws on input from six patient advocacy groups, said Chris Simms, head of marketing and commercialization for brolucizumab, the Swiss drugmaker's candidate to treat wet AMD. Granted FDA priority review in April, brolucizumab is awaiting a decision by October.

If approved, the drug will go up against Regeneron’s Eylea and Roche’s Lucentis—and, if analysts are correct, grow to $1.38 billion in sales by 2024. 

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After Novartis worked with the advocacy groups to create the educational tips in the kit, Berkus went through the materials to make sure they were not only functional, but also design-friendly and easy for people to understand, Song said.

When patients and caregivers sign up for the kit, they will also receive follow-up email messages from Berkus and links to videos of the famous designer bringing the suggestions to life.

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Berkus also has a personal connection to the disease—his late grandmother suffered from macular degeneration and the vision changes it brings. As part of a multiday media tour with TV, online and print outlets, Berkus appeared on "Good Morning America" to talk about his grandmother and what he did to help her live independently long before he was a designer.

“Whenever you can work with someone that has Nate’s notoriety and awareness level, but also has a personal connection to the disease state, it just makes the work a lot more authentic and real," Simms said. "It’s always valuable when someone can speak from the heart.”