TV scientists star in AstraZeneca's first ad campaign for asthma biologic Fasenra

An ad within an ad is the theme of AstraZeneca’s first DTC campaign for Fasenra.

In the recently released TV commercial, scientists on TV talk about eosinophilic asthma while potential patients watch the “show” and react as they go about their daily lives. The TV scientists are wearing white lab coats with the AstraZeneca logo and answer interview questions in front of a room of other scientists and doctors. The campaign, targeted to reach people between the ages of 45 and 65, also includes print, digital, social media and in-office advertising.

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“We wanted to bring to life the idea that scientists (which are portrayed by actors in the ad) are sharing important information to and for people with severe uncontrolled asthma while showing how those potential patients are reacting to receiving the new insight,” Mina Makar, executive director of respiratory biologics at AstraZeneca, said in an email interview.

Less than 2% of people with severe asthma know that eosinophils may be a potential cause, Maker said. An estimated 50% of people who have severe asthma may have elevated levels of eosinophils, which are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. A blood test can help determine if patients have eosinophilic asthma.

Fasenra was approved in November to treat eosinophilic asthma, a market that's led by GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala. GSK and Teva, which markets Cinqair, each had a head start on the market compared with Fasenra, but AZ is the first of the group to launch a DTC campaign.

“Today only 1 in 10 eligible severe asthma patients are currently on a biologic," Makar said, adding that "we believe this type of education is very important so patients better understand their disease."

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AstraZeneca recently hit a snag in its quest to expand Fasenra into COPD and catch up to Nucala. In a phase 3 trial, the blockbuster hopeful couldn't top placebo at cutting down the rate of exacerbations, or episodes when symptoms suddenly worsen. AstraZeneca is awaiting results from another phase 3 study before it makes a decision about the drug’s fate in COPD.