BMS CEO defends use of DTC to promote cancer drug

Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio defended the company's first branded cancer TV spot Thursday during a call with investors. 

Caforio said the drugmaker chose DTC for its second-line lung cancer drug Opdivo to dispel pessimism created from a history of cancer drugs that lack “significant value.”

Deutsche Bank analyst Gregg Gilbert questioned the channel's usefulness for the indication during the company's full-year earnings call, saying that he expected adoption of immunoncology drugs like Opdivo to grow whether or not the company promoted the drug to patients. 

See also: Bristol-Myers Squibb turns to DTC to promote Opdivo

Carforio responded that the TV campaign was necessary due to the “long history of treatments that have not delivered significant value to patients with lung cancer," adding “there is pessimism for many patients, and the number of patients—particularly in the second-line setting—are not being treated as aggressively as they should.

“For the first time, we have been able to offer a really meaningful opportunity through Opdivo to patients,” he said,” we felt it was important to invest in a campaign and in many ways mobilize patients to seek treatment now that an option is available.”

His defense of DTC comes as the drugmaker reported that 60% of new patients in second-line lung cancer are now taking Opdivo. The drug saw $410 million in sales for the last three months of 2015, compared to $268 million in the third quarter—a nearly 53% hike. BMS spent an estimated $42 million on the TV spot, “Longer Life,” so far, according to estimates from The ad first hit the airwaves in late September.

Opdivo's label was expanded to include non-squamous forms of lung cancer and advanced kidney cancer in October and November, respectively.