Valeant's Salix hooks up with Lifetime Channel to talk IBS-D

Poster from Salix preview of sponsored IBS-D TV segment on Lifetime, created with partner Access Health.

IBS can be embarrassing to talk about. But Valeant's Salix Pharmaceuticals found that an even bigger problem may be that many people who potentially have IBS are undiagnosed. The pharma commissioned a study recently that found up to 75% of patients with IBS lack a formal diagnosis.

That research got Salix thinking about how it could better educate people about the condition, Nicola Kayel, vice president of GI marketing at Salix, said. And right around that time, Access Health approached Salix.

The Lifetime TV health segment programmer was looking for a partner to do a 30-minute show about IBS-D. It was the right fit at the right time.

So Access produced the show using Salix’s recommended KOL, Dr. Mark Pimentel. Two of Pimentel’s female patients appeared on the segment along with the doctor to tell their stories about years of difficulties and over-the-counter remedies on their way to diagnosis. The segment aired on Oct. 11.

RELATED: New Salix virtual reality film gives doctors an 'insider' tour of the human GI tract

While most of the show focuses on education and awareness, Pimentel and the patients also talk about Salix’s Xifaxan as the specific medication that works for them. For those mentions, the last minute of the show is a standard list of possible risks and side effects used in branded advertising.  

While Access owns the rights to the content, Salix did get to show the segment at the recent American College of Gastroenterology conference. Kayel said it was a good way to show physicians and KOLs what Salix is doing in regards to education, but also to point out the issue of many undiagnosed patients.

“I think that maybe patients just don’t know there are more options available than what they can get over the counter,” Kayel said. “One of the patients in the video says it took her five years to get to a diagnosis. This is a condition that’s not only embarrassing to talk about, but patients don’t think there is anything that can help them.”

The target audience for Salix products—female in the 25-44 age range—matched well with Lifetime’s predominantly female audience. Salix's research found that 78% of diagnosed patients in its study were women, while 64% of undiagnosed participants were women. 

Valeant scaled up its Salix sales force earlier this year by nearly 40% to boost lagging Xifaxan sales, hiring 250 "experienced sales force representatives and managers." Meanwhile, Allergan, with its competing drug Viberzi, has turned up its marketing game with several awareness campaigns launched in the past year.