Shionogi eases its way into the consumer space

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Virginia Madsen
Virginia Madsen

Although a full DTC push isn't expected until January, drug maker Shionogi has eased into the consumer space for its post-menopausal treatment Osphena with the site FindingtheWords.com. Featuring actress Virginia Madsen and OB/GYN Ricki Pollycove, the site's goal is to help women find ways to discuss dyspareunia, which is painful sex, which is part of a larger condition called vulvular and vaginal atrophy (VVA).

The FDA approved Osphena in February, and the company launched an HCP campaign three months later with a pitch that includes dispatching company sales reps with Patient Experience Kits that contained an invitation to join what's called the Inner Circle, where women can discuss VVA symptoms. The company also designed samples that come in packaging that mimics contraceptives—meaning a push-through design, as opposed to a bottle of medication.

The consumer website offers several ways to engage, including a resource called “find your voice through pictures” that lets visitors use images to express how they feel. The pictures component is based on Shionogi's discussions with gynecologists, which indicated that women who had a hard time describing the condition's impact were successful in using pictures to convey their emotional states.

The drug has a few hurdles to address. Shionogi's director of marketing Daiana Simonson tells MM&M, “Women know about menopause. They know about hot flashes,” but says VVA awareness is largely lacking. She says women typically don't link menopause with the discomfort and generally talk with their doctors only when it's severe enough to affect personal relationships and everyday living.

The company says part of the product's edge is that it reverses the physiological signs of the vagina that characterize vaginal aging, as opposed to OTC lubricants, which women use, but are not meant for the condition.

The current consumer strategy is largely a public relations effort. Handled by Ketchum, VVA coverage has appeared on Dr. Oz, CNN's Headline News and several radio stations. Simonson tells MM&M it can take women two years to decide to talk about the issue.
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