Otsuka and Lundbeck revive Rexulti mask campaign as U.S. uptake soars

Masking depression is never a good idea. Otsuka and Lundbeck are back on the air to make that case with a new TV ad for antipsychotic Rexulti that features people with depression using handheld masks to hide their sadness. 

After a four-month hiatus for the campaign, the new “faces” ad continues the theme of actors holding up cardboard smiley face masks in front of their faces in social and work situations—attending a bridal shower, meeting with colleagues, sharing a meal with family—as they struggle to put on a "brave face" for the world. The initial TV campaign launched last February and ran through October and featured similar storylines and masks.

According to Otsuka's depression research, “patients often put on a ‘brave face’ in public, but on the inside, they are still dealing with the symptoms of depression," a spokesperson said by email. "Our intent is to convey, in an authentic and destigmatizing manner, that many people living with depression continue to experience symptoms even while following their current treatment regimens.”

Otsuka and Lundbeck have spent more than $63 million on national TV ads to date for Rexulti, according to data from realtime TV ad tracker, shellingout the bulk—$58 million—on the first ad.

Rexulti is approved as a treatment for schizophrenia and as an add-on for major depressive disorder, with the TV ad campaign targeting the more lucrative latter indication. But the drug’s makers are hoping the list won't end there, planning to go for more indications. Otsuka CEO and president Tatsuo Higuchi said during a recent earnings call that clinical research is underway for treatment of agitation in Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, noting that “we will aim at Alzheimer's agitation filing in 2017.”  

Lundbeck CEO Kåre Schultz also referred to the Alzheimer’s agitation clinical research with Otsuka in his company’s February earnings call, calling it a “pivotal program.” He said the partners expect results in the first half of 2017.

Rexulti sales grew by 600% in 2016, Schultz said, and now it has “some 11% of the branded total script market share and some 12% branded new script market share” in the U.S. Rexulti was initially approved in July 2015 for use only in the U.S. but recently snagged a Canada green light. Australia is the next country where the pair anticipates approval, with plans also to file for schizophrenia indications in Europe, Schultz said.