Shire volleys with tennis star Seles to promote Vyvanse for binge eating

Monica Seles

Shire's ($SHPG) got the FDA go-ahead to market blockbuster ADHD med Vyvanse as a treatment for binge eating disorder (BED). It just has to make sure doctors and patients understand what BED actually is.

To do that, it's signed on former tennis superstar Monica Seles, who has struggled with the condition. She chronicled her struggles in the 2009 book "Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self." To kick off her partnership with Shire, the two have teamed up on a commercial that gets right down to the point.

"Binge eating disorder, also known as BED, isn't just overeating," the spot begins. "It's a real medical condition." And it officially is for the first time, with the American Psychiatric Association adding it to the latest edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The ad goes on to show Seles--who says her binge-eating episodes usually happened when she was by herself after a long day at the tennis courts--alone in her kitchen once again, but this time totally in control as she makes tea, flips through a book and puts flowers in a vase.

"Once the binge was over, I felt so upset with myself," she recounts. "When I did feel comfortable enough to reach out to a doctor and talk about my condition, it was really like a huge relief."

Shire will need patients to follow Seles' lead if it wants the new indication to score an additional $200 million to $300 million in Vyvanse sales within a few years, as CEO Flemming Ornskov has predicted. The patient pool is certainly there, with an estimated 2.8 million people suffering from BED in the U.S.

At least one analyst thinks the Dublin drugmaker can capitalize. In a recent investor note seen by Medical Marketing & Media, Jefferies analyst David Steinberg wrote that "while this market will largely need to be 'built' from the [ground] up, Shire has a strong track record in this regard."

After all, Shire played a key role in establishing the ADHD category, Steinberg points out. If it can repeat that success with Vyvanse in B.E.D., the indication could hit $24 million in 2015 sales and $73 million in 2016, he figures.

The Seles spot isn't Shire's only effort to educate the public on the malady, either. The campaign already boasts a website——featuring information about the B.E.D., symptoms for ID'ing it, and tips for discussing it with healthcare providers. Steinberg expects Shire's strategy to include "substantial early efforts focused on disease awareness, unmet patient and physician detailing," MM&M reports.

- watch Shire's advertisement
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Special Report: The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2013 - Flemming Ornskov - Shire