Biogen signs on sports talent for a share-your-story MS contest

Tyler Campbell is one of Biogen Idec's new patient advocates for its MS Campaign, MS Inspiration.--Courtesy of Biogen Idec

Seven years ago, Tyler Campbell was a college football player at San Diego State hoping to go pro and follow in the footsteps of his father, NFL Hall of Famer Earl Campbell. Then he was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis. Campbell didn't know what the disease was. "What do we do to treat it?" he wanted to know.

For Campbell, the answer is now Tysabri, an injectable treatment from Biogen Idec ($BIIB), and that's why Biogen signed him up to help lead a patient awareness campaign, MS Inspiration. Together with Chris Wright, a former Dallas Mavericks point guard and fellow Tysabri user, Campbell is encouraging other patients to talk about their day-to-day lives with MS.

Campbell and Wright share their own stories on the campaign's website,, and ask patients and loved ones to submit their own inspirational narratives for a contest. Winners will have their stories featured on and will have the chance to attend a game with Campbell or Wright.

Since receiving his diagnosis, Campbell's life has shifted gears. He now works for the family business, Earl Campbell Meat Products, and credits the disease with bringing him closer to his family and community. "Relapsing MS has given me an opportunity to reach people in ways I never thought possible," he said in a promotional video on the MS Inspirations website. "My hope is that my words will motivate somebody else, keep them pushing forward and never quit."

In 2012, Wright was the first NBA player to be diagnosed with relapsing MS. No team would give him a league shot, but he eventually earned a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. The contract was not renewed, and Wright now plays professional basketball in Italy for Libertas Pesaro. "It sounds like a cliché but never give up. Anything is possible," Wright told viewers in a promotional video on the website. "Your personal inspiration can help with your journey."

Biogen Idec posted worldwide Tysabri sales of $2 billion in 2014.--Courtesy of Biogen Idec

The contest is open to submissions until April 7, and winners will be announced in June. Tysabri patients are not the only ones eligible for the contest, Biogen spokeswoman Hayley Soffer told FiercePharmaMarketing in an email. The company is accepting submissions from everyone in the relapsing MS community, but mentioning a particular treatment in a contest entry will disqualify it.

Tysabri sales took a big upswing after Biogen forked over $3.25 million to buy full control of the drug from its partner, Elan ($ELN). The agreement, combined with price hikes, fueled a top-line jump of 34% between 2012 and 2013. In 2014, Biogen reported worldwide Tysabri sales of $2 billion, a 28% jump over the previous year.

But it hasn't always been a slam dunk for Tysabri. The company in 2005 pulled the drug from the market after some patients developed a potentially fatal brain infection, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Biogen reintroduced Tysabri the following year with a boxed warning and risk-management plan. The company scored a victory in 2012 when the FDA allowed it to add information about a risk factor for PML--the presence of anti-JC virus antibodies. The label change, coupled with a diagnostic test, could add $1 billion to 2016 sales of the drug, analysts estimated at the time.

- here's the MS Inspiration website
- read the Medical Media & Marketing story (reg. req.)

Special Report: The top 10 best-selling multiple sclerosis drugs of 2013 - Tysabri