BI, Pfizer find new way to reach COPD patients

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Life coach Gail Blanke
Life coach Gail Blanke
Boehringer Ingelheim is back in the race to fight chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The drugmaker, along with Spiriva co-promoter Pfizer, launched a new COPD program titled “Better Breathing is Possible.” The four-video series is hosted on YouTube and the drugmakers are using a blend of in-search and in-display advertising to promote the campaign, as well as the now-traditional channels that include Facebook, Twitter and press releases.

Unlike BI's Drive4COPD program which focused on awareness and screening, this time the target is not just awareness, but what patients can do once they are diagnosed.

Talking points, like take your medication and learn about the disease, may seem familiar to those that appear on resources like the American Lung Association's website, but what's different in this campaign is that the marketers have looped in life coach Gail Blanke to convey the message. Blanke, whose mother had emphysema, a form of COPD, told MM&M that one of her overarching messages, even beyond COPD patients, is “to have people stop asking the question ‘How bad can it get?' and start asking, ‘How good can I make it?'”

Life coaches are not new to the pharmaceutical space, as seen by recent examples like Genzyme's project that chronicled the lives of MS patients and included the support of a life coach. BI's vice president of respiratory, Burcu Eryilmaz said that the drugmakers chose Blanke for the campaign because “some COPD patients can have a complicated relationship with their doctor, and while diagnosis and treatment counsel must come from a physician, it appears some COPD patients respond well to empowering and nurturing messengers as well.”

Among the advice in the videos, which are around five-and-a-half minutes long, is information like understanding that although COPD patients may not be able to do everything they used to, they still have the ability to “save [their] energy for the things that matter most” and plan activities for the times of day when they have the most energy.

Blanke added that doctors should be the source of education, but that information only goes so far. “We can tell them ‘til we're blue in the face all the statistics and things that you can do and that you should do and what happens if you do not do them,” she said. Blanke said the motivation and feeling overwhelmed can be the difference between a patient who acts on the information and one who doesn't.

She said that her advice helps people discover “that they do have the courage within them to take the necessary steps to actually feel better...to know that you've got the stuff inside you, the courage to actually act on it.”

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