The road trip trope is alive and well in medical marketing, as Alnylam Pharmaceuticals recently utilized the motif to raise awareness of hereditary ATTR (hATTR) amyloidosis.

Last week, the pharmaceuticals company launched the Family Health History Road Trip, which sent genealogist and health educator Bernice Bennett across the country to meet the hATTR amyloidosis patient population to talk about how important family history is when it comes to health.

This is especially true for those at risk of developing hATTR amyloidosis, a rapidly progressive and often fatal disease that affects about 50,000 people worldwide. 

The disease — which can lead to damage of the nervous, cardiovascular and digestive systems — is caused by an inherited variant in the transthyretin (TTR) gene, which makes understanding one’s family health history critical to achieving an earlier diagnosis.

Bennett told MM+M she met with several families on the road trip, some of whom did not know the risks associated with hATTR and sought to learn more from their relatives about whether they had any genetic diseases.

She said that patients who are at risk for the inherited disease should undergo genetic testing to get a diagnosis and jumpstart their care journey. She also noted that some of the people she met on the trip have since become advocates for their families after learning about hATTR and how it can impact their bodies.

“I found it to be empowering because these individuals all understood how important it was to share this information to make health history part of the conversation that they would have with their family members,” she said. 

While some people may understandably be private about their health status, Bennett said the campaign’s focus is to encourage more questions and conversations that can lead to better care outcomes for patients.

Speaking about her field of study, Bennett said the genealogy community needs to talk more about health implications in family histories and keep people informed about diseases or disorders that could affect them down the line. 

Since the launch last week, Bennett said her peers have reached out not only with congratulations but also an acknowledgement that they should be further probing people’s family health histories.

In addition to the road trip, Alnylam created a website to serve as an educational resource hub for the hATTR community.

Christina Zhao, senior director of U.S. marketing at Alnylam, told MM+M that the campaign aims to help patients and caregivers identify the symptoms of hATTR and raise the complex disease’s profile with additional media exposure.

Though the campaign is still in its infancy, anecdotal evidence from Zhao indicates the preliminary response to the campaign has largely been positive and stirred a sense of optimism among patients and HCPs.

“Somebody’s health history is one of the biggest indicators of what their outcomes will be from a health perspective,” she said. “It’s hopefully changing the paradigm and what we focus on when it comes to unpacking our family history. I know, — at least for myself — that I am feeling motivated.”