Phathom Pharmaceuticals launched its first broadcast direct-to-consumer (DTC) campaign to promote Voquezna, its treatment for all severities of erosive gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), including erosive esophagitis.

Launched Tuesday morning, the multi-channel marketing effort – dubbed Voquezna Can Kick Some Acid – features an all-blue superhero set to deliver heartburn relief to millions of people through the potassium competitive acid blocker.

About one-fifth of Americans have GERD, which is typically identified by frequent heartburn, but around one-third of those patients have the most severe version of the condition: erosive esophagitis. The inflammation of the esophagus can make swallowing difficult and result in chest pain while eating.

That’s where Voquezna comes in to help. The 10 mg and 20 mg tablets of a potassium-competitive acid blocker were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in November to treat erosive GERD. About a month later, the FDA accepted the company’s new drug application for Voquezna to treat heartburn associated with non-erosive GERD in adults.

Voquezna Can Kick Some Acid is rolling out on social media through Facebook and Instagram as well as on the connected TV front through Prime Video, Hulu and Peacock.

The ad campaign will also appear at the point of care through TVs in the waiting rooms at doctors’ offices and through digital banner ads, according to Phathom’s chief commercial officer Martin Gilligan

Gilligan told MM+M that revitalizing the erosive GERD market requires bold and memorable campaigns that empower dissatisfied patients to take action and speak with their HCP to address their symptoms.

He said the burgeoning pharma company is aiming to disrupt what he considers to be a “stagnant proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) market” with a superior product.

“There has been no one promoting this category to physicians or to patients in over 10 years, so we need to come in with a campaign to disrupt the market because it’s all generics,” he said. “We’re going to be the only company speaking about GERD to physicians and to patients. From a prescription and business standpoint, it’s an untapped opportunity. From a patient standpoint, it offers a new solution.”

The desire for a strong and powerful model to advertise around led to Voquezna’s monochromatic superhero, which Gilligan said fit the profile for being quick, potent and durable.

Given that this drug is among the first in its class, the company sought to match the enthusiasm around its launch with a marketing effort to boot.

Recognizing that most physicians are at least aware of the drug, Gilligan said the goal for this campaign is to reach patients, alert them to a new option for their condition and ensure they can talk about it as a treatment option with their care team.

He added that the company is measuring the market access component of this campaign launch, too, having just signed a commercial agreement with Express Scripts last month.

As a parting message to the medical marketing community, Gilligan reiterated that the company is venturing into a large market with an unmet need that they’re aiming to fill.  

“Our message is that with Voquezna, it’s been shown to be superior versus the standard of care PPI. It’s got faster healing, more durable healing and offers 24-hour heartburn relief,” he said. “We’ve got something totally different here and we know that patients are motivated by the campaign.”