Two drugs in the pipeline representing unique marketing challenges
From the diversity of novel drugs to increasing scrutiny of pharma's claims, medical marketers face a broader array of challenges than ever before. And just as drug developers are attempting to accommodate each patient's unique needs, so, too, are marketers honing strategies to deliver targeted messages to patients, providers, and payers.
Catalyst: In December, AbbVie and Boehringer Ingelheim presented strong Phase III data supporting the plaque psoriasis drug risankizumab. In February, the companies presented further positive data from two Phase III trials.
Together, these results have paved the way for near-certain FDA approval, yet risankizumab will face an uphill battle as the third drug of its kind to enter the market.
Competitive landscape: Risankizumab will compete with two other IL-23s, Janssen's Tremfya and Sun Pharma's tildrakizumab, setting up a latecomer challenge for the marketing team.
In addition to the IL-23s, risankizumab will enter a market similarly saturated with newly approved IL-17s from Novartis and Eli Lilly.
According to Phase III results, risankizumab bested AbbVie's blockbuster Humira as well as Johnson & Johnson's Stelara — two mainstays of psoriasis treatment.
Only 2% of patients taking risankizumab encountered serious adverse events. During a quarterly earnings call, AbbVie EVP of research and development and chief scientific officer Michael Severino outlined risankizumab's differentiators: convenient quarterly dosing and superiority over the standard of care for bio-naive, tumor necrosis factor, and adequate responder patients.
Messaging strategy: AbbVie's psoriasis blockbuster Humira makes risankizumab messaging an “interesting challenge,” Leonard says. “If AbbVie didn't own Humira, we'd suggest it not be shy about announcing there's a new sheriff in town. But Humira's got a stronghold — docs know it, trust it, and love it — and AbbVie isn't likely to want to rush any mass exodus to a co-promote. But while behavior change away from something as trusted as Humira will take years to gather steam, [AbbVie] will probably be willing to go with the head-to-head story, just with less gusto than a real competitor might.”
Adds Meyer, “It's going to have to make some really big claims to catch up.” He notes physicians will likely already be familiar with IL-23s, so messaging should focus almost exclusively on risankizumab's differentiating factors.
Marketing strategy: A drug such as risankizumab requires a massive direct-to-consumer campaign. “It's just a question of how much and how soon to manage the cannibalization impact. But with enough patients on Stelara and Enbrel, and recent aggressive marketing from [Eli Lilly's] Taltz and [Novartis'] Cosentyx, they go big out of the gate,” Leonard predicts.
Still, owing to the late entry, it would make sense for AbbVie and Boehringer to price risankizumab competitively. This would encourage payers to add the drug to their formularies, Meyer says.
This story has been updated to reflect that risankizumab is a biologic.