Astellas taps Roska for consumer OAB product launch

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Independent agency Roska Healthcare landed the consumer agency-of-record assignment for Astellas' new overactive bladder pill, Myrbetriq (mirabegron). The agency announced the win Tuesday, just over a month after the FDA green-lighted the extended-release tablets, a successor to Astellas' blockbuster brand VESIcare (solifenacin).

Roska was mum about strategic details, other than to say that the DTC campaign will be multi-platform and will tap into the expertise of chief digital and science officer Kurt Muller. The creative team is headed up by Joe Vitale.

Myrbetriq presents a new spin on a common problem. It's the first approved beta-3 antagonist, a class of drugs that affects bladder capacity. Most of the drugs on the market are antimuscarinics, which relax the bladder to ease a patient's urinary urge and include products like Pfizer's Toviaz (fesoterodine) and the now off-patent Detrol (tolterodine). VESIcare is an antimuscarinic, as well. Allergan's Botox also entered the competition when it filed for approval for the condition with the FDA in March.

VESIcare and Toviaz already do a fair amount of DTC advertising but take different approaches. VESIcare has run its "pipe people" campaign the last few years. Toviaz has, among other promotions, the “Accidents Waiting to Happen” ads.

But Astellas may have trouble positioning the new pill as a unique follow-on to VESIcare, which is slated to go generic in 2015. Although the National Association for Continence says about 17million adults – both men and women – have overactive bladder, critics have said the drugs fail to help the more dire cases. When Myrbetriq, then referred to as mirabegron, came before an FDA advisory panel in April, the program director for the Washington-based National Women's Health Network told MM&M, “We don't have drugs that make a practical difference in the lives of people who are experiencing . . . extreme conditions.”

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