|"Heart Felt" director Cynthia Wade|
You can't accuse Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron ($REGN) of slacking. Partners on the forthcoming cholesterol fighter, Praluent, the drugmakers have been laying an awareness foundation for months. A cholesterol-testing campaign, a patient-awareness poll, advocacy partnerships--and now, a documentary.
From an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, no less. Sanofi and Regeneron brought on Cynthia Wade to direct "Heart Felt," which chronicles the cholesterol-control efforts of 19 patients in 5 different countries.
One of those patients is Eddie Sarfaty, whose high cholesterol diagnosis triggers memories of his mother's heart attack and bypass surgery. "I remember thinking she could be gone in an hour. Fortunately, she was fine. But, my diagnosis made me worry that I might not be so lucky," Sarfaty said in a statement about the film.
The idea is to personalize high cholesterol, which may be widely discussed as a health hazard, but remains an abstraction for many people. The numbers on a laboratory printout aren't much to grab onto--or much inspiration for patients to get treated--and Praluent won't hit its blockbuster sales target without patients.
Wade has some experience documenting patients' experiences. She may be best known for her short documentaries--including Freeheld, about a terminally ill New Jersey police officer who fought to will her pension to her domestic partner--but she has plenty of awareness work under her belt. She directed a series of videos about HIV patients for Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), and films about liver disease for the American Liver Foundation.
The documentary is available at the TakeDownCholesterol.com website, which also serves up links to cholesterol-education materials, health resources, and a goal-setting health program called My Plan.
The documentary follows Sanofi and Praluent's Cholesterol Counts effort, which kicked off with a poll last December. The results weren't promising for public health: About 71% of respondents didn't know their LDL numbers. On the flip side, that's an opportunity for the drugmakers, which will be jousting with head-to-head rival Amgen ($AMGN) and its fellow PCSK9 treatment Repatha. The new class includes a product from ($PFE) as well as the Amgen and Sanofi/Regeneron drugs, and all the companies will be working to make a new market. The specialty cholesterol drugs--injectable antibody treatments--will be pricey, and drugmakers face a job persuading doctors and payers that they're worth adding to statin therapy.
The "Heart Felt" documentary can't hurt in that effort. Boehringer Ingelheim had a similar idea last year as it prepared to roll out its idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug nintedanib; it funded a Discovery Channel documentary called "Every Breath Counts" to feature patients their treatment strategies.
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Editor's Note: The press release link in this story was corrected.