Horizon teams up with Olympic champion to raise awareness around Graves' disease and thyroid eye disease

Track star Gail Devers joins Horizon on social media and podcasts to share her experience with Graves' disease and thyroid eye disease. (Horizon)

About half of people diagnosed with Graves’ disease will go on to develop thyroid eye disease. One of those people is track star and three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers, and she's joining Horizon Therapeutics to alert people to the connection.

Devers talks about her two-and-a-half year struggle to get a diagnosis as well as the physical changes and deep emotional impact of the disease in a video on the campaign website.

"I covered up all my mirrors and I just wanted to black out the world. I felt like I’d lost myself; I was desperate for answers,” she said.

Even after the Graves’ diagnosis, now 30 years ago, Devers didn’t realize that her bulging eyes along with constant pain and irritation were not caused by Graves’ disease but by thyroid eye disease (TED), a separate disease requiring separate treatment.

“This is something I wish I’d known all those years ago,” she says in the video and encourages others to “be your own best advocate."

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Horizon reached out to Devers and found a willing partner. She was keen to raise awareness of TED during Graves’ Disease Awareness Month in July so others wouldn’t have to go through the same experience she did. Along with Horizon, two nonprofits, the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association and the Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Foundation and Prevent Blindness, are working with Devers and the effort.

“Gail is intimately involved in the campaign—every piece of content has been created in such a way to tell Gail’s story exactly in her voice,” Matt Flesch, vice president of communications and patient advocacy at Horizon, said in an email. “From media interviews to the 'Listen to Your Eyes' podcast to the feature on our new landing page, Gail and her story are central to the campaign.”

Devers starred in the first podcast episode in the new series talking with experts about TED. She talks about how she first noticed symptoms of Graves' disease in 1988 just after breaking the U.S. record in hurdles and before training for the Olympic Games in Seoul. She talks about her search for answers and offers tips for others to overcome adversity.

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The campaign continues to use the FOCUS mnemonic created last year for Graves’ Disease Awareness Month with each letter beginning a sentence to tell people what signs and steps to take to identify TED. This year the memory device was translated into Spanish to help expand the reach.

While the Devers campaign isn't Horizon's first effort to connect Graves’ disease and TED, it is Horizon’s first use of a celebrity spokesperson.

Horizon is also running a separate DTC awareness ad about the link between Graves and TED, which debuted this month.

While both efforts are unbranded, Horizon’s drug Tepezza, which launched last February, could be heading toward blockbuster status despite a few COVID-19-related roadblocks along the way. The drug managed to pull in more than $800 million in its first year, with part of its success credited to Horizon’s advertising.