Veracyte is debuting its first patient campaign for the Afirma thyroid nodule test this month. But it’s been a long time coming for the genomic test, which launched back in 2011.
Why the nine-year wait? While Veracyte has marketed the test to healthcare professionals since its inception, the company decided before going directly to patients that it would make sure the test had broad guideline inclusion, as well as payer coverage and in-network status with most major insurers, as it now does. The test has also become a standard of care with marketplace penetration of 35% to 40%, Bonnie Anderson, chairman and CEO at Veracyte, said.
“If you lean too quickly into patient education and people start going and asking for a test that their doctors have never heard of, sometimes that can backfire. Doctors may feel like a company is trying to perform medicine, instead of helping them perform it,” she said.
The “More About You” digital and social marketing campaign is built around the new Ask for Afirma website. The work was developed around insights over the years that found patients were often surprised if a thyroid biopsy did not result in a definitive diagnosis. Of the estimated 500,000 people evaluated by fine needle aspiration biopsies for thyroid nodules each year, around 30%—or as many as 100,000 patients—get results that are neither benign nor malignant, Anderson said. Those results lead to discussions with physicians about next steps, which can include surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid.
While the “More About You” patient campaign was planned long before the COVID-19 crisis disrupted the healthcare economy, Anderson said that in a way, the precautions and advice around the pandemic may actually reinforce the message of the Afirma campaign.
“In an odd sort of way, the timing may be right for this information. Patients may be more receptive today, and six months from now having gone through the pandemic, learning and reading about molecular tests and how some can help them avoid surgeries they won’t benefit from,” she said.