BI and Lilly launch DTC campaign for Jardiance

Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly launched a DTC campaign for Jardiance as they seek to differentiate the third-in-class type-2 diabetes drug in a competitive and complex market.

The drugmakers co-market Jardiance (empagliflozin), a SGLT-2 inhibitor that received FDA approval in August 2014.

The campaign, which launched in mid-September, is called “That's Life” and focuses on the choices that diabetes patients have to have make every day to stay healthy. Evoke Health developed the creative. Mindshare handled media buying.

It features three stories: a woman steering clear of meatballs during a family dinner, a man choosing a healthy wrap over fast food and another man trying to balance a workout with a work conference call. The scenes are set to a version of “That's Life,” a Frank Sinatra hit from the mid-'60s.

The campaign seeks to empathize with patients, who may struggle to address daily challenges related to diet and exercise in their everyday lives, said Aylin Utke, director of diabetes marketing for Eli Lilly. The companies believe this element of the campaign will differentiate Jardiance from its competitors.

“The type-2 diabetes category is increasingly competitive and very dynamic as of late,” Utke said.

Part of that dynamic is new clinical data, released in September, that shows Jardiance is the first diabetes treatment to reduce deaths caused by cardiovascular disease, which will mean that the drug will soon have a clear advantage over its competitors.

The drug's label will likely be updated by mid-2016 and Lilly and BI are expected to move forward with a new “marketing blitz” then, Tim Anderson, an analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in a Sept. 17 research note.

“Having the strong showing on CV mortality makes for a very marketable claim, but it also begs the question of what is driving the benefit exactly—if it was clearly [lowering] blood pressure, one would have expected a bigger impact on heart attacks and strokes,” Anderson said.

Jardiance is part of a new class of drugs known as SGLT-2 inhibitors, which includes Johnson & Johnson's Invokana (canagliflozin) and AstraZeneca's Farxiga (dapagliflozin). SGLT2 inhibitors are approved for use with diet and exercise for patients with type-2 diabetes.

Invokana was the first to market when it was approved in March 2013. Farxiga followed with an FDA approval in January 2014.

Invokana was the top prescribed SGLT-2 inhibitor in the US in 2014 with about 2.1 million prescriptions, according to IMS Health. J&J reported that sales of Invokana and Invokamet, a combination of canagliflozin and metformin—approved in August 2014—nearly tripled to $596 million in the first six months of 2015, compared to the $211 million in reported in the same period in 2014.

Farxiga generated 686,665 prescriptions. Jardiance, on the market for less than five months in 2014, had 64,594 prescriptions.

Even as the market dynamics play out, there are some safety concerns that may limit adoption of the drugs. The FDA in May issued a warning that said using SGLT-2 inhibitors may cause ketoacidosis, a condition that occurs when the body produces high levels of blood acids. There were 20 cases of the condition in patients taking SGLT-2 inhibitors from March 2013 to June 2014.

Physicians now have to weigh the safety warning among other factors when making prescribing decisions. It's unclear at this time to analysts whether the new Jardiance data will help the drug compete with Invokana's formulary dominance.

BI and Lilly launched the HCP campaign for Jardiance in August 2014. The campaign, which is called “That Speaks to Me,” takes a similar approach to the DTC initiative.

“As an HCP campaign, it's not fancy and it's not scientific,” said KR Fozouni, executive director of diabetes marketing for Boehringer Ingelheim. “It's honest and human.”

Lilly's Utke said a CRM program is expected to launch next week. The DTC campaign's print and digital ads are targeted at health and lifestyle titles and there are plans for digital display and mobile advertising.