Novartis taps hives and psoriasis patients for inspiration in dermatology campaign

Skin plays a big role in day-to-day human interactions, whether it's a handshake or a hug. That doesn't make things so easy for people with chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) or psoriasis.

Novartis ($NVS) is trying to evoke that power of touch with its Skin Impressions awareness campaign. The Swiss pharma teamed up with pro photographer Rick Guidotti on the project, aiming to capture the spirit of patients living with chronic hives and skin plaques, and helping them live their lives to the fullest, the company says.

"People with severe skin conditions are more than the appearance of their skin and medical diagnoses," Novartis spokeswoman Julie Masow told FiercePharmaMarketing in an email. "They are people--they are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, partners, friends and colleagues. We want to help inspire and motivate people to rediscover their confidence and the freedom to touch, hug and embrace their loved ones, empowering them to strive for a skin they can truly live in."

Novartis just so happens to have a couple of products designed to help those patients treat their diseases, starting with Xolair. Earlier this year, the drug won approval to treat CSU in the EU and in the U.S., where the condition is known as chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU). In its other life as an asthma treatment, Xolair netted $613 million last year in outside-the-U.S. sales, with Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech pocketing the U.S. revenue as part of a copromotion agreement.

And then there's the in-development secukinumab, which recently topped Pfizer ($PFE) and Amgen's ($AMGN) psoriasis blockbuster Enbrel in a Phase III study. Despite those impressive results--more than half of secukinumab patients achieved a skin clearance rate of 90% or more--the candidate will have work to do to distinguish itself amid a host of up-and-coming next-gen treatments, if and when it hits the market.

In the meantime, Novartis will be working to "recast how we view people living with these diseases" through the new campaign, which features 14 "#SkinImpressions Ambassadors" from around the world. Already launched in countries such as Canada, Germany, Mexico and Brazil, the campaign invites people to browse through a gallery of patient images, watch interviews on YouTube and read stories from skin-condition sufferers like Valentina from Italy, Fernanda from Brazil and Ismail from Turkey.

#SkinAmbassador Melissa from New York

It's not the first time Novartis has teamed up with a well-known photographer for disease awareness. Last year, the company, which sells its meningitis B vaccine Bexsero in Europe, partnered with photographer Anne Geddes on the Protecting Our Tomorrows initiative, which featured portraits of children who had survived meningococcal disease. But unlike that campaign, which showcased the disease's sometimes devastating physical effects, Skin Impressions focuses on active, confident patients doing the things they love with the people they love.

"Living with psoriasis has taught me that beauty is actually found in virtue and merit and not in flawless skin," Melissa, a 22-year-old dancer in New York City, says in one video interview. "You create the person you want to be, and that doesn't have to be within the confinements of your disease."

- read Novartis' release
- see the Skin Impressions images and stories here
- get more on Instagram here and YouTube here

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