Oh My Gut! Allergan and Ironwood's IBS-C push links patients to telemedicine

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Patients can click to talk to an online doctor in Allergan and Ironwood's new digital irritable bowel syndrome with constipation awareness campaign. (Allergan)

“OMG” gets a new meaning in Allergan and Ironwood’s latest IBS-C awareness campaign. The “Oh My Gut!” effort highlights the multiple symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation—and aims to ease the path to diagnosis.

Beyond constipation, IBS-C can include abdominal pain and bloating, making diagnosis sometimes difficult—two in five sufferers never seek medical care, using self-care or OTC products instead.

That's a big barrier to diagnosis—and, of course, to new prescriptions for drugs like those Allergan and Ironwood sell. This campaign aims to remove that barrier by offering a direct line to a doctor via an online telemedicine link.

The website includes a green call button offering, “Talk to your doctor online about your symptoms in minutes.” When users click “Start here,” a disclaimer pop-up box notes the viewer is leaving the page to go to PlushCare, and that Allergan and Ironwood “do not, in any way, endorse or recommend” the telemedicine provider.

The link is meant to make it easier for patients to get care online, instead of having to search for a telemedicine provider themselves, said Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Chief Commercial Officer Mark Plinio.

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While Allergan and Ironwood have fielded other awareness campaigns to address the stigma of IBS—such as their “Toilet Talk” effort—the ability to talk to a doctor right from the website is a new element.

“We feel it’s an important opportunity for some patients who may just not want to go to see a physician face-to-face,” Plinio said. “There are patients who don’t want the inconvenience of going to see a physician, but then there are also the type of patients who are maybe insecure about the type of discussion they’re going to have, especially if they know the physician.”

That hesitation, along with symptoms patients themselves dismiss to try to self-treat, continue to drag on time to diagnosis—people still wait 18 months on average before talking to a doctor.

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"IBS-C can cause great discomfort and frustration for those living with it,” Aimee Lenar, vice president of marketing, gastroenterology and psychiatry, at Allergan, said in an email interview. “IBS-C can be treated when diagnosed, but there is a stigma surrounding the condition that we need to break to help motivate people to take action.

"The ‘Oh My Gut!’ campaign aims to validate the condition, provide tools to help facilitate productive discussions with a doctor and shed light on the recurring symptoms these individuals are dealing with in a real, relatable, and supportive way."

Allergan and Ironwood also do branded advertising for Linzess, their co-marketed IBS-C and chronic idiopathic constipation treatment, currently running a “Yes Linzess” campaign.