AbbVie aims to truck ahead with hep C testing promo campaign

AbbVie's ($ABBV) waiting for FDA approval on a hepatitis C combo therapy. OraSure makes a rapid test to detect the virus. And professional truck drivers in the U.S. are more than 5 times as likely as other Americans to have it.

Put it all together, and you've got the makings for a brand-new marketing campaign, "Truckers Rolling Against Hepatitis C." Together, AbbVie and OraSure--parties to a copromotion agreement focused on testing individuals with the latter's OraQuick HCV Test--have teamed with the Healthy Trucking Association of America to educate drivers about HCV and encourage them to get tested.

The campaign will kick off at--where else?--The Great American Trucking Show, coming up later this week in Dallas. From there, the companies will keep it going with local HCV testing events across the country.

OraSure CEO Doug Michels

For OraSure, the campaign is a no-brainer. The diagnostics maker is aiming its test at a patient pool that's disproportionately affected by hep C with the help of a pharma partner that it believes can help it more effectively increase awareness about and deployment of the product, CEO Doug Michels told FiercePharmaMarketing.

And for AbbVie? The campaign and broader partnership "builds upon [its] commitment to making a meaningful improvement in the lives of patients with HCV," a company spokeswoman told FiercePharmaMarketing via email.

It may also help ratchet up the population in line for next-gen, highly effective hep C combos once they hit the market, as they're expected to later this year. By the time AbbVie's, which was submitted to the FDA in April, rolls around, it could be playing catch-up to similar cocktails from Merck ($MRK) and Gilead ($GILD). Gilead's pill Sovaldi has taken the market by storm and set the record for fastest drug launch ever.

That doesn't mean there won't be enough patients to go around. The sheer number of patients in the U.S. has some payers worried the new-age treatments may break the bank.

But that's where pricing comes in: The $84,000-per-12-week-treatment-course Sovaldi already has some payers up in arms, including Express Scripts ($ESRX), which has shown interest in forming a coalition to exclude the drug until rival products hit the market. And if AbbVie opts to undercut Gilead, it may be able to carve out a hefty piece of the pie for itself.

- read the release

Special Report: The New Drug Approvals of 2013 - Sovaldi