Elanco’s president/CEO Jeff Simmons tells Marc Iskowitz the animal health firm will ramp up DTC and digital advertising as it enters a “historic” launch phase. 

Lecia Bushak explains how Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), got the CEOs of J&J and Merck to agree to testify at his February 8 hearing on drug costs. 

Plus, the first brain implant in a human patient from Elon Musk’s Neuralink tops our Trends segment, along with a planned documentary on Celine Dion’s health struggles and the Gen Zers’ embrace of the “sober curious” movement. 

Music by Sixième Son.

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Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Hey, it’s Marc

With 4th Qtr results season approaching for many biopharma companies, we’re gearing up to hear the usual fodder of earnings calls – you know, stimulating chatter on talking points like: 

  • 2024 guidance and underlying market fundamentals
  • Doctor visit trends and the R&D pipeline. 

When it comes to Elanco, the second-largest independent animal health company, investor focus will squarely be on the company’s upcoming new product approvals. 

In addition to the three potentially blockbuster pet-slash-animal health products up for Food and Drug Administration approval over the next five-and-a-half months or so, the co is in the midst of bringing a monoclonal antibody and other products to market 

That makes it a great time to find out what new marketing efforts are in store and the expected advertising ramp behind these upcoming launches.

So I sat down with Elanco CEO Jeffrey Simmons to find out.

If you’ve ever wondered how marketing an animal health product compares to promoting a pharmaceutical, Simmons here puts on a comparative-marketing clinic. 

As it turns out, the tools of the trade for persuading veterinarians to adopt a product in their practices and drive pet owners into the clinic is remarkably similar to the dynamic on the human side.

This week on the podcast, how Elanco is looking to execute through a historic period of blockbuster launches 

And Lecia’s here with a health policy update…

Hey Marc, today I’ll give an update on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ showdown with Big Pharma, as the CEOs of both Johnson & Johnson and Merck have agreed to testify at a February 8 hearing about high drug costs.

And Jack, what’s on tap for the trends segment?

This week, we’re talking about Neuralink’s first brain implant in a human subject, the planned documentary about Celine Dion’s health struggles and the closing days of Dry January. 

Geoffrey, welcome to the M&M podcast great to be here Mark. Thanks for the opportunity. Absolutely. This is the first time we’ve

had you on the show and I believe the first time we’ve had an animal health company on the podcast. First of it’s okay with you. Please tell me what brings you to the New York Stock Exchange today. Lots. Lots of meetings have just come in from Florida the

the North America vet conference down in Florida and in town for a few more meetings, so

Looking forward to our discussion today.

Absolutely, you know, most of our listeners are medical marketers working in human health but a landco sees itself as a bridge between animal health and the health of the planet. So you’re just as big a part of the healthcare marketing story as Eli Lilly, which I know you split off from back in 2018 your company launched a marketing campaign just yesterday to save a million puppies from parvovirus. It’s called the defend puppies defeat parvo campaign, you know part of a virus has a mortality rate as high as 91% I think in dogs an estimated 900 dogs are diagnosed with Department virus daily in the


mostly unvaccinated puppies and many pet ownership don’t know about it. So can you give us a brief overview of that campaign?

Yeah, you did a nice job. Yeah. There’s a lot of energy coming out of this large conference. We’re at where most of the veterinarians in America converge in January and look at solutions to key health problems. And you said it well Mark, we believe in elanco that making animals lives better makes life better.

From protein to pets we touch the human health side with better nutrition with protein to the the mental health and the companionship side with the whole pet side. And then also we’re getting into the environmental side. So the Parvovirus is our first monoclonal antibody approved by the USDA as a conditional approval into the marketplace here in the US. We see it as one of our six potential Blockbusters that we’re going to be involved in and bringing to the market the next two years. That’s one of the things that I’m excited about talking to some people in New York about so parvovirus you you hit it very well. This is the deadliest virus and puppies today 8 to 900 puppies a day as you say diagnosed with this if not properly treated over 90% mortality.

This antibody treated in the vet clinic we’ve seen in early success bringing it into the market. We have some limited Supply in 2023, but we saw a great success in terms of the treatment and the effectiveness of this product. So, you know as I heard from a veterinarian yesterday, we went from dealing with tragic news to that new puppy owner that just brought it into the home to now we’re becoming Heroes for the family with this treatment. So what we did we made a pledge because we know the veterinarians are great people and they’re in it for a cost at that profession is a very Mission driven profession that we love to serve and we sign to pledge and are continuing to sign a pledge to say hey together with this technology with a professional veterinarians. We’re gonna save a million puppies by the end of the decade so and it does tie right into we are in the people business. I say any land go coming out of Eli Lilly, we do it with pets protein. Our vision is food and campaign and ship enriching life. And this is one of the best examples of it. I’ve seen in my 30 some years.


and you’ve got you know, giving you know, you have pledge you form a task force, which we’ll talk a little bit about later and you’re giving some incentives to veterinarians to up that you know that the usage rate and of course the the campaign part of a virus, excuse me, the canine part of a virus monoclonal antibody as you said was conditionally approved by the USDA to shorten the course of the disease and improve outcomes in animals. I think a validated potency test is the missing piece for full licensure and I think the USDA is reviewing that data right now, right? That

is correct. And you’re exactly right what what happens with before this treatment? It was a prolonged very contagious virus. You needed to contain the dog in the vet clinic against success rate was was really challenging and and it made of that clinic which right now across the country 30,000 vet clinics are struggling with capacity. We’re short a veterinarians is a profession. So this this virus

Lot of problems inside the vet clinic as well. So we’re creating efficiency for the veterinarian much more, you know better outcomes for the pet owners and it’s kind of a win across the board and veterinarians like to get behind a nationwide initiative like this and it’s some unique and different we’re excited to do it

create and then the monoclonal we’ll call it the cpma as you do. Yes as now achieved unconstrained Supply capacity meaning the supply has caught up with the demand tell us what that means for a landco.

Yeah. So we are the second company to bring monoclonal antibodies into Animal Health. It’ll be a platform that’ll bring a lot of Alternatives whether that’s pain or other other things that can come from this platform. We actually, you know, we’re scaling up the bio reactors very common and monoclonal antibody production. And so that scale up has to happen really after the product has been approved. And so we’ve been scaling that up and now we have done that and we have on restricted Supply and that’ll create really be great to be able to get this product.

Distributed across the country and that’s what we’re doing. Now. We’ve expanded our sales force 20% some of that’s because of this product but you know, we’ve got a couple other products that are in final stage with the FDA that are coming to the marketplace and the Pet Market here in the US and that’ll

be excellent Segway to the next question. I know the other big news for you is the setup for 2024 and the three Blockbuster Pet Health products that are up for approval over the next five and a half months those products. You have credellio Quattro, which is for Fleet tick and worm disease and relia a jack inhibitor for canine Durham use and bow there metropress in that right but method for methane methane reduction in cattle and you know, I want to ask you how are the conversations with the FDA going and you still on track for a first half approval?

Yeah, and maybe just to back out Mark. Here’s what’s most important I believe is that you know, elanco’s it’s our 70th year and just at the end of 2022 in the record. We have we had 10 Blockbusters. That’s over.

Million dollar product in animal health and we are sitting on six right now and you just highlighted a couple more on the pet side. So this is you know, the most exciting pipeline we’ve seen in our 70 years and that’s what we’re sitting on here as we look at the next two years six Blockbusters coming to the market. We’ve talked about parvovirus a couple in cattle. But yes, we’re in the final stages. The first one is zenrelia. It’s a jack one inhibitor. It is in the Durham atopic dermatitis. It’s the number one reason a pet owner goes to the veterinarian is an itching dog, or you say they can self diagnose, you know themselves to the pet owner and this is a 1.2 billion dollar market that has very limited options right now and we’re bringing a differentiated asset into a very large Market that’s growing with the Jack one Inhibitors and relia. It is got a path to a first half 2020 for approval. We’re in that rolling iterative phase with the FDA and things continue to progress at the same time. We’ve got to Cornelio Quattro.

The largest market on the pet side is the parasiticide market everyone knows about ticks fleas heartworm and other worms credilio Quattro brings quite a differentiation into the largest market for Animal Health. It has the broadest coverage tickfully and worm coverage. It is the only product with four active ingredients. So it’s going to create convenience for the paddle owner the veterinarian and that is in the same stage. It is got a path for a first half 2024 approval.

So these are these are great Innovations. We have another monoclonal antibody for Durham coming in 2025 as well. So we’ll be providing a lot of opportunity for for the veterinarian and pet owners here over the next two years.

Sounds like a favorable setup for 2024.

Now since this is the mmm podcast I was hoping that you could talk a little bit about what new marketing efforts are in store. And the expected advertising ramp Behind These upcoming launches. Yeah.

So if you think about that clinics in and also the Animal Health Market, there’s really there’s really two sides of it. It’s inside the vet clinic and it’s outside if you think about these new Innovations, so they’ll provide great solutions for the veterinarian and pet owners. It will be going through the vet channel. So the first thing we’ll do is we’ve increased our sales force as we want to make sure that the vet clinics and the technicians and the veterinarians know about these products and that’s kind of the push part of this and then the poll will be we’ll look at everything from digital. We use a lot of digital campaigns here where we can Target practices Target geographies, maybe, you know knowing where the dissatisfaction is in an atopic dermatitis market. So we’ll probably lead with digital followed by DTC. We will we

Absolutely use TV advertising that will pull things through once we know that there’s more more awareness at the vet clinic. So and you know, we’ll we’ll look at that after we get the label from the FDA. We know the product we get the awareness on the ground and then we’ll build that that added demand afterwards.

And maybe Mark I’ll just Segway, you know, when you acquired bear Animal Health a couple years ago, and we did that for more of a pet business. We were a 30% of our portfolio was Pat’s and with Bayer we went to over 50% it tripled our International pep business and it’s globalization of pets is quite big. It also improved our scale. We went from a mid-sized company to today. We’re the second largest independent Animal Health company. So, you know what Bayer brought us was outside the vet. So we have a pretty large OTC you’ve heard about the advantage family. It’s one of the more known Pet Brands as well Seresto. So what we we look to do is be the Omni Channel leader and we are from in and outside the vet we say we can meet any pet owner where they want to shop at what price point so online at the pet store or in the vet clinic and doing that globally is key. So we use a lot of marketing as well on the OTC side that can be advertised driven as

Well as even through major retailers and online is where the leaders in that outside the vet Market as well

interesting and ready just you completed that acquisition of bear which took place in 2020. The integration for that just finished is from what I what I hear and as you say that increased your kind of footprint in the in the Pet Market, how is the retail Pet Market kind of shaping up this year?

Yeah, so through the first three quarters for a lanco were up 10% on the US pet retail side. We continue to see nice growth there on there again, there is still a large percentage up to 30% in the US and even similar outside the US of pet owners that do not go to the veterinarian. There’s a high percentage of cat owners that don’t naturally go to the veterinarians. So being able to have OTC products that they can access online they can access, you know in their pet store even a value store and Rural America this really opens opens up nice things what you need to grow that market is you need to keep innovating whether that’s like a cpg product whether it’s small changes to the packaging or a lower cost option that you know a brand that may need to be refreshed to new technology and they can last longer longer duration more value. So, you know, we have added Innovation. We’ve added more physical availability we’re going

To Tractor Supply lows other value stores to be on more shelves at more price points. That’s what’s driving the growth and I would say the same thing internationally Mark another key Trend today in the US 70% of the homes have a pet.

Internationally a lot of markets. It’s 20% So this humanization of pets is globalizing and Pat retail that will be another driver is the globalization of the trends that we’re seeing here

in America with pets and you can’t help but walk, you know into a CVS or Walgreens and see a pet aisle. So you have that retail presence as well. So the importance of OTC in addition to DTC, you know, it becomes clearer there.

It does. I mean being in more physical available places and we brought in a lot of sense of choir a lot of consumer product good talent and expertise from that sector has joined. Elanco to really we’ve refreshed the way we’re looking at this Market segment and and we are the leaders there and we’re going to continue to invest we see a nice Runway of growth and in

pet retail great. Just hoping to shift gears for one second and come back to the parvo campaign for a moment. One of the three main pillars is this task force and

Them as I read some notable names have signed on including influential veterinarians like Dr. Hunter Finn Christian zersen and Fred Metzger. I think these are you know, kind of leading lights in your community the phenomenon of Veterinary influencers as I find an interesting one, you know, I’m sure they’re influential vets out there as there are in any profession has its influencers. I recall our family Veterinary Dr. Mark Rosenberg from where I grew up as many of our listeners either leverage influencers to augment their own clients marketing campaigns are they work directly to cultivate those influencers was wondering if you could talk about perhaps how that works in your field, you know other differences and how Works between Veterinary and human health. Is there a big problem with misinformation in the veterinary space as there is in the human health space?

Yeah. It’s just very similar. There’s a lot of parallels to The Human Side. So look this is a science-based heavily regulated industry and Elaine go for 70 years has been based around just just

Know coming from our parent company Eli Lilly it is is starts and ends with the science and the influencers just like the Physicians on The Human Side. The veterinarians are the keepers of that information and they are the ones that are credible. They’re the ones that pet owners look to First and we like that and desire that so there’s also some specialty work just like on The Human Side that’s another parallel. So there’s there’s specialist and parasiticized even even a heartworm Specialist or a topic dermatitis and they’re specialty clinics that are focused on even oncology diabetes these Specialists then become you know, the ones that will do the extra research will help maybe even with some of the research that’s being conducted or analyzed that research at a greater level and then they will, you know objectively speak on this from really a point of knowledge. Just coming from this show down in Orlando where all the veterinarians convene every year, you know, they’re all there getting their education credits by sitting and listening to these experts.

And that’s how it Cascade. So absolutely the influencer network from a scientific basis is one of the greatest nodes of influence. But to me also it gives us good comfort that, you know, everything starts and ends with the science and that’s what we’re doing here with parvovirus as well.


just to shift gears one more time. You know, I’ve heard you talk about this though the pandemic shook the food supply chain, you know, we all recall those empty store shelves and the inability to buy basic necessities. It really tested the resiliency of the system Society said not again, but what have we learned from that experience and what’s being done to prevent it?

Yeah, so look, I think and you’re speaking specifically at the protein side. Is that what you’re saying or just overall like a company like a lanco Tim

overall for the from what the company’s perspective is on that?

Yeah. I think I think we’ve learned a lot. I mean first of all, I mean we have spent a lot of time and effort over the last couple years of setting up an Erp system globally as we integrated bear we stood up out of Lily. I believe the first thing Mark we all learned is you’ve got to have deep expertise. You’ve got to have a global system of data to have tremendous awareness of and then there’s a balance between just in time and just in case you’ve got to have partners that you can count on there’s an active ingredient Supply I’m chain that I believe is shortened a little bit post-covid to actually create the, you know, the the resiliency and the security that we’re going to be able to have that we have backup Supply on any critical product and keep the right level of inventory on any critical product like a par.

IRS to assure that we can supply that on critical needs. So I think it’s Data Systems expertise and the right inventory and partners are things that I think all of us have short up significantly post covid


and any final words before I let you go Jeff,

you know, I would conclude just the key and reasons. I know you were a JP Morgan a couple weeks ago and on a landco, I think the noise kind of is positive and coming we’ve had four by ratings two new coverages and a lot of it is back to just three words. It’s it’s Innovation growth and cash and I think this is what’s driving the interest in the company is these six Blockbusters kind of historic for us over the next two years these potential Blockbusters. The company has returned to growth we’ve guided to growth for 24 and we’re gonna turn that growth and and also EBA into more cash conversion with the stand up behind us and and continue to do whatever on the company so exciting time for ilanco. Thank you for the interest in animal.

Health as we say any lanco making animals lives better makes life better and we look forward to all of your listeners and hopefully customers here take care of those pets and enjoy the protein

great great and you know, we’ve you know feel like we know you over the years because you know, we run one of the biggest Awards shows and in medical marketing and you know, the work of a landco has been featured there over the years. It’s very creative space and then the advertising world, but you know, just to close things out here, you know, another learning from the pandemic was the critical role of pets, of course in providing emotional support to people who are more isolated and as you put it healthy animals are that X-Factor and locking the connections among the environment physical and mental aspects, and we wish you the best of luck in this new exciting phase and the good work that you’re doing. Thanks so much for joining us Jeff. Really? Appreciate it.

Thank you Marc.

The Senate drug pricing hearing that was scheduled for last Thursday – only to be scrapped due to a lack of participation – is back on.

Johnson & Johnson CEO Joaquin Duato and Merck CEO Robert Davis agreed late last week to testify at an upcoming Senate hearing about high drug costs. The two CEOs conceded after initially refusing to testify several weeks ago, prompting Sen. Bernie Sanders to threaten to subpoena both of them.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions or HELP committee will hold a hearing on February 8 to question the Big Pharma CEOs on why the cost of drugs in the U.S. is significantly higher than in other countries. Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Chris Boerner will also testify.

The HELP committee hasn’t issued a subpoena in over 40 years, but Sanders was prepared to use the panel’s power to bring these executives forward for testimony. 

That didn’t come without a fight, however. Both CEOs initially refused to attend the hearing, with their companies noting in statements that Sanders’ request appeared to be retaliation against the drugmakers for launching lawsuits against the federal government over the Inflation Reduction Act.

Merck, J&J and Bristol Myers Squibb are among the list of pharma companies that have sued the federal government over the Medicare drug pricing negotiation provision. Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia, J&J’s cancer drug Imbruvica and Bristol Myers Squibb’s blood thinner Eliquis are among the first 10 drugs chosen to have their prices negotiated by Medicare.

The companies tried to offer other executives to testify, arguing that the CEOs did not have expertise in drug pricing. Sanders pushed back against the comments in a press conference last Thursday.

[Byte] 08:08 SANDERS: “They have told us that the CEOs of J&J and Merck just don’t have the expertise necessary to tell us why they charge so much more for their medicine here than abroad… Merck went so far to tell our staff that their CEO is a tax attorney, who is not an expert on prescription drug prices… Well, maybe the CEOs of these pharmaceutical companies should become experts on why they’re ripping off the American people.”

After both agreed to testify in the February 8 hearing, however, Sanders thanked them in a statement for QUOTE “agreeing to join the CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb and voluntarily testify before the HELP committee. The use of subpoena was clearly a last resort and I’m delighted that these CEOs will be coming into our committee voluntarily.”

The move is part of a much larger push among lawmakers to dig into high drug costs, especially since Sanders ascended to head of the HELP committee last year. I’m Lecia Bushak, Senior Reporter at MM+M.

Hey Jack.

Hey there, Marc, we’ve got a lot to talk about today. I think the news of the day, we just have to jump into it: Neuralink. Lecia, what happened?

Neuralink has implanted the first brain-computer chip into a patient, Elon Musk said in a post on X Monday.

Musk did not provide any details about the patient, only noting in the X post that the patient was “recovering well.” He added that “initial results show promising neuron spike detection.”

The surgery involves a robot sewing a device onto the surface of a brain. If successful, the move could be a potential milestone for brain-computer technology, which seeks to help people who are paralyzed or unable to speak. Neuralink’s goal, its website states is to “restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs today and unlock human potential tomorrow.”

Musk added in another X post that the first Neuralink product will be called “Telepathy,” and it would enable “control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking.”

“Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs,” Musk explained. “Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer. That is the goal.”

Neuralink joins a growing number of other companies who are seeking to develop brain-computer technology, including Blackrock Neurotech and Synchron.

Yeah, thanks Russia my thoughts, you know not to rehash too much. I think the last time we talked about it was in September when musk found himself defending a neuralinks brain implant strategy against the reports of dying animals and it was around that time that the FDA had announced that they had approved the move to human experimentation, which I think the three of us were kind of raising an eyebrow about given the fact that back in previous December December of 2022. That is Reuters reported come out talking about how many animals had died and testing. I think the number was around 1500. They also talked to the wire service did 20

Current and former neuralink staffers and reviewed internal documents suggesting the 25 out of 60 pigs at the wrong size device implanted in their heads and other involved botch surgeries that left one employee warning of the need to prevent further quote unquote hack jobs. So you fast forward 12 months and given the series of updates. As you said, let’s show that musk posted on X formerly Twitter about promising signs, which does suggest that the device has been properly implanted and that these page that the patient is recovering well from the procedures so that that does bode well, but but the prior, you know reports, you know, give give us all pause in terms of you know, scaling up, you know from this one patient to you know, many more patients obviously is the idea given the scientific process seems to have been had so many hiccups in it. So to speak in the buildup and also as you pointed out this the the BCI the brain computer inter

Space is heating up including BlackRock neurotech other Rivals peridromics Connexus direct data interface and in Black Rock, you know for their part. They were the first ones to test BCI and humans way back in 2004 and you didn’t hear about you know, botch scientific processes and and extraordinary number of animals that had died. So it just doesn’t give us a lot of comfort. You know that they’re making a jump to humans given that that makes history.

I can tell you that as with so many things with Elon Musk.

The Ambitions whether that is Tesla neuralink SpaceX. You name it? There is always this larger. We want to make the world better like the idea of being able to give that sort of sensory feeling life really back to people that maybe not able to use their limbs is admirable but as Mark has talked about in Prior reporting especially from Reuters who’s done a number of very important exposes, not only about the experiments but also the regulatory oversight of the animal safety and you’ve talked with Medical ethosis before how can you not be concerned? You know, I was I was out having a couple drinks after dinner with some friends and I saw that come across I’m like

Buckland were in for it now and this is different than doing experiments on monkeys or doing experiments on pigs. This is a real person and there are real consequences that come with that that I think still need to be fleshed out. I know that a lot of other people share my concern even if you go on X his own site, there are people I can show you this because we’re in the same Studio here, but people talking about like, I’m the first, you know person that’s taken that’s been in playing with a neuralink device. They got fake blood coming down from their head or somebody had quote tweeted elon’s statement saying that the patient is recovering well and the neuron Spike detection. They said the audio log you find in a trashed office in a sci-fi horror game. Like there are all these sorts of things where people are having very real concerns given elon’s track record with self-driving cars that

You know have had have hit people in crosswalks or you know rockets that come hurtling back to earth and explode on impact. We’re now putting a device in somebody’s brain and while it may be admirable there are very legitimate concerns.

Yeah, there’s a lot of ethical questions that that come up as we sort of watch this develop and I think Mark brought up a really good point putting this into context a little bit, you know, it’s easy for Elon Musk to kind of make this seem like it’s a huge breakthrough, but it it’s not the first brain implant that’s been implants it into a human brain. Obviously Mark just mentioned to happen in 2004. So it’s been this has been something that’s been you know studied and and tried for you know years now and you know, given or a links track record of having a lot of these safety issues flagged definitely bring some concern into the question here. So we’ll be excited to sort of keep tracking this and watching what happens

and I think that there are a lot of comps to what we’ve seen with, you know concerns. I remember last year when

The the ALS drug that was up for consideration with the FDA and they’re all concerns about well, what could the side effects be on the patient’s stuff? But then you have patients that are coming out there saying like we want to take that risk. We want to be able to have the option that we could potentially get life back. I could imagine there are plenty of patients out there. They’re like, I know he there’s the sketchy track record. I know that all the sort of stuff but like I can’t move my limbs or I have a short disease. I would like to take that Hail Mary. I’d like to take that chance and

then that’s that’s the fda’s decision to to assess the risks versus the benefits and make that decision like, you know, you talk about the ALS drug or even before that to saubri for Ms. You know, there was a risk of a of a very rare brain infection and the MS patients, you know, that that opted to get the drug say we’re willing to take that chance, you know, and so you do see that kind of fearlessness amongst some patient groups and that’s a really good comparison Jackie you could see that same fearlessness here. I’m willing to take that risk, but obviously it’s up to the FDA to

Whether you know the risk benefit analysis is meets a certain threshold and I do hope that the work culture also, you know improves at neuralink because you know, from what we heard and read in the Reuters report that demands that musk was setting seem to be unrealistic for Healthcare company. And you know, you can’t have I don’t think the same sort of Demands for Healthcare company that you have say for a SpaceX or a Tesla or an ex, you know, so we’ll keep our eyes on this one. Yeah.

I wonder I wouldn’t hold my breath on a workplace change and Elon Musk own company, but that’s just my own two Sense.

on to the second story that we have here. There is a documentary that is in the works about Celine Dion’s Health struggles and it’s found a home with Amazon MGM. They ask that they have acquired the rights to I am Celine Dion. It will be directed by Oscar nominated filmmaker Irene Taylor and say Snapchat and it’s a snapshot of a pivotal Moment In The Life and

Of the pop Superstar Celine Dion listeners will probably remember back in December of 2022 Celine Dion went public with Her diagnosis of stiff person syndrome and rescheduled tour dates, ultimately canceled those tour dates as she deals with the neurological disorder that has been upending her daily life. She’s experienced spasms. It’s affected her ability to walk and sing and she’s been working with a sports medicine therapist to build back her strength to perform again the future for those who may not be aware of what stiff person syndrome is that’s not just the name or a colloquialism. That is the actual rare required neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system. It’s categorized by progressive muscle rigidity. And in fact anyone at any age most people with this conditioner diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60 and they’re prone to these random painful muscle spasms that Dion highlighted in a video when she announced her disorder back in December 2022, there is no

Cure or vaccine for stiff person syndrome in many of the treatments are aimed at managing the symptoms and improving a patient’s mobility and comfort these include benzos and baclofen. So it’s really going to be interesting. Obviously. We see a lot of documentaries come out that are all about patient empowerment. We were talking last week about the Eternal memory and those are always dependent on the patient. I think it always helps when you have a patient that is as famous as Celine Dion, you know, one of the most well known singers in the world bringing intention is something that affects one out of every 1 million people but there are plenty of rare disease campaigns. They’re all about empowering a small group of patients.

Yeah. Definitely. I mean we’ve obviously talked about this

Thing about celebrities raising awareness a lot on this podcast and especially with celebrities who are pursuing like creative Endeavors Like Music Arts film. It’s always I think helpful for them to kind of talk about even though this is a very rare disease that affects a very small amount of people. It’s always helpful when someone like Celine Dion is able to kind of open up about it and really show a personal Journey because a lot of people wouldn’t really normally come across someone who has stiff person syndrome or be able to learn much about what she’s facing so

It’s you know, definitely commendable on her part to be upfront and and kind of show this Spotlight into a difficult condition really.

It’s one of those things too that like I you know, we we write for a living and we could only imagine if we had some sort of medical condition that robbed us of that ability to fulfill our livelihood. But in this case it is she’s not able to sing and schneible to belt out. You know, it’s all coming back to me or my heart will go on. You name your favorites lean Dion song Mark and I will be singing karaoke after this podcast ends, but wanted to get your thoughts Mark, you know, obviously Amazon too putting their considerable resources. They’ve really gotten to the filmmaking game. So being able to show this across I assume all their Prime platforms and stuff. It should get a pretty large audience.

Yeah, you know the distribution Channel there is you know, almost second to none in terms of Prime video, you know being in how many households across the country aliens. So yeah, so it’s a really smart move. Perhaps the most high-profile, you know rights to a creative asset that they’ve acquired to look that up afterwards, but, you know have a couple different things working on different levels here, you know, a you know, as you could be both mentioned, here’s another celebrity coming out on Instagram. Well, she revealed, you know a year ago that she had this this diagnosis and you know in the ensuing months this disorder has kind of revealed. It’s it’s Progressive nature, unfortunately and kind of robbing her of what she loves to do, which is awful and and but you know the fact that she’s using her platform, you know to bring attention to it and now she’s going to be sharing it in detail about how she’s going.

About living as she puts an authentic life with this illness can only help patients that come after her so, you know, I applaud her, you know decision to bravely go through with this the second point is that you know in doing a little bit of research on Women’s Health Magazine site talking about SPS to person syndrome, you know, the diagnosis often presents as Parkinson’s Parkinson’s disease as Ms. And so it’s but there is a a discrete diagnostic for it. They measure the amount of blood protein that you have in your system that kind of confirms the diagnosis. So so here is another opportunity for her to help speed. Someone else’s diagnosis. You know, she brings attention to this not just among her fans but also amongst, you know, the clinical set, you know, because doctors only know so much and if they can include this test in their diagnostic criteria,

You know is there differentially diagnosing certain things Women’s Health being the complex area that it is it can only help on a professional level as well. So just some thoughts there but we wish her obviously the best for her and her fans

and just a quick note before we go to our third story March 15th is international stiff person syndrome awareness day. And while Amazon obviously has an announced when the documentary will be coming out. They do expect it to be sometime this year. So keep an eye out for that

For our last story,

Dry January may be coming to an end, but a much larger trend appears to have taken hold: More and more young people are becoming “sober curious,” or embracing the positives of sobriety or drinking in moderation.

For some people, sober curious means swapping out alcohol and hangovers for mocktails or other non-alcoholic beverages that come in fancy flavors.

For others, being sober curious means they’re making serious lifestyle changes for the sake of their physical and mental health.

[Byte]: Okay to my sober curious girls. Two and a half months ago, I decided to go sober. That was a big deal to me, because I think ever since I started drinking, I don’t think I ever went more than 3 weeks max without a drink. One I would say things I didn’t mean, two I would have conversations I regretted. And three, I would use substances like alcohol to propel my personality.

The notion is becoming increasingly popular, with the number of Gen Zers who plan to drink less alcohol in 2024 jumping 53% year-over-year, according to a recent survey out of NCSolutions.

In 2024, 61% of Gen Zers said they planned to reduce their alcohol intake, compared to just 40% in 2023.

The takeaway for marketers, the authors of the report noted, is that more and more young people are interested in sober curious messaging and non-alcoholic products. Notably, one-third of Gen Zers said they’d be willing to try a new beverage if it markets itself as being aligned with a sober curious lifestyle.

Unsurprisingly, 45% of Gen Z respondents said social media was the most effective route for advertisers to reach them with sober curious messaging. About one-quarter of respondents said they have tried a non-alcoholic beverage when a celebrity or influencer suggested it.

The survey came out shortly after nonprofit SAFE Project released a new song, “It Ain’t 5 o’clock Somewhere,” as part of its Sensible Strumming campaign to encourage sobriety. The song aims to confront country music’s glamorization of drinking and urge people to drink in moderation.

[Clip from song]: “You’re always drinking to be with your friends, you can’t keep the drinks out of your hands… you pass out for a day or two, now red solo cups are thrown about …”

I think it’s one of those things where jenzie is particular. I think that it’s speaking as a younger Millennial. I have a sister who’s jenzie. They’re particular in terms of their their view on the world their perspectives on politics culture you name it and

I think there’s another aspect to it where I know a number of people that have, you know, given up booze either for dry January or you know all together in their lifestyle choice. And that’s entirely their own. I do think it’s interesting that so we’re curious. I was looking at our podcast producer fits kind of rubbing his temples as you were detailing this over curious. I do think it’s always interesting to see the cop the commodification of something like that where it’s like, yeah, you can do this for your own health and you can do that for that but Brands and influencers, they’re like

jump on that right?

They’re like if I can make a buck. I’m gonna try and do that. And if that’s if that’s why I’m gonna call it. So we’re curious.

Far be it for me to avoid that I guess.

It has a nice ring to it. Yeah, it’s funny. I had thought that you know the sort of poster child if you will covid stock was Peloton, so I was kind of surprised when I read your story Elisha which was excellent and some of the Tic Tacs that you had highlighted there, you know included one girl who said that she made it pandemic habit of having one drink per night. So what was the logic there? Yeah was that

Especially alcohol being a depressant, you know, so so this situation now where they’re kind of boomeranging back to the opposite is kind of not so surprising given that they’ve feel that they’ve seen kind of what where that leads you to you know, what I don’t want to see hopefully is that you know, we have a vacuum here situation where gen Z is kind of if they are boomeranging back to sobriety again that you know, the kind of products that fill that void aren’t like, you know charged lemonade, you know from Panera Bread or something

exactly products with like questionable other ingredients that they’re putting in them. You know, I saw I think I saw a product that had a laundry list of fancy sounding ingredients like him and like energy boosting supplement or something that are being marketed as like these non-alcoholic Alternatives. You can just take to a party and it looks cool in your hand you kind of blend in so there’s this huge wave of new products like

that are coming out with

You know strange and interesting ingredients being put in those so that’s sort of being the replacement.

It’s kind of like the beyond me. That’s what I really reminds me of where it’s like people are like well, I don’t want to eat meat so I’m gonna cut that out. It’s like here’s this replacement of something. That’s like, oh it’s proteins that mimic meat and it’s like it’s okay. So what is that though? You know, it’s the same thing like I go to restaurants and I see they’ll have mocktails that have something else and for anybody that is here that owns a restaurant that controls those prices absolutely outrageous that prices are near what cocktails are. There’s no booze in it. That should not be even comparable in terms of price and that’s gonna be my own little soapbox though yell on this podcast about I shouldn’t go to a restaurant where a cocktail is 18 dollars in Manhattan and a mocktail is 15 dollars. That’s outrageous and you should be ashamed of yourselves but it’s a very similar thing where it’s like I’m gonna cut out the meat so I’m gonna go with something like that. It’s like, okay, but how much healthier is an impossible Whopper compared to a Whopper how much healthier is right? You know that

All these other sorts of things you talk about these supplements or these other, you know at that point you just drinking like syrup and sugar like as your replacement for alcohol like and again, I’m not I’m not in the hands of big alcohol. I’m not in the hands of big beer or whatever. I know. My last name is O’Brien, but that is where I do have that questionable taste in addition to the fact that Wellness influencers are out there potentially co-opting this as a way to make a buck off people there trying to make a healthier lifestyle Choice. That’s always where I have an issue with that. So rant finished.

Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see where marketers go with sober curious messaging as you put a lesson and and you know how they seek to co-opt or capitalize on this new trend.

Well unless it was our dry January be reporter too and there was so much more coverage this year than there was last year and I wonder if that’s something like when we get into January 25, if there’s gonna be a lot more Brands and influencers there seems to be more of the ball rolling there and I think unfortunately because they may be see that there’s money attached to it too. But if you are making a healthier lifestyle choices

It from me to put a drink in their hand or a vape in their hands or vape.

Right. The comparison is just a very obvious, you know, whether it’s you know things that come to fill the void, you know, are they really that much better?

It’s not always the bet the first thing in the door after that is not always gonna be the best thing right? It’s just a message people should live by my 29 years of life. I can distill that wisdom down.

Words of a much older man say from experience. Thanks so much for joining us in this week’s episode of the imminent podcast. Be sure to listen to next week’s episode. We’ll be joined by Helen Mariano’s Global head of R&D portfolio strategy at Santa Fe.

That’s it for this week. The mmm podcast is produced by Bill Fitzpatrick Gordon failure, lesabusak and Jack O’Brien. Our theme music is by scissy himself rate review and follow every episode wherever you listen to podcasts new episodes out every week and be sure to check out our website. Mmm -online.com for the top news stories and farmer marketing.