Pharma companies promote USAGE cholesterol study

NEW YORK: Major pharma companies are working with Makovsky + Company on a campaign to promote a cholesterol survey that will involve more than 10,000 statin users.

NEW YORK: Major pharma companies are working with Makovsky + Company on a campaign to promote a cholesterol survey that will involve more than 10,000 statin users.

The goal of the USAGE Survey, short for “Understanding Statin Use in America and Gaps in Education,” is to provide data on why patients stop taking their cholesterol statin medication. Statins are the most commonly prescribed medication to treat high cholesterol.

Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Eli Lilly and Company, and the National Lipid Association have prepared the effort for more than a year, said Lisa Garman, associate director of marketing at Kowa. The initiative, which has a budget in the high six figures, is using TV personality John O'Hurley as a spokesman.

“One of the things that really surprised us was not only are patients going off their medication, they are doing it without consulting their physicians,” said Garman.

Doctors write more than 200 million prescriptions for statins each year. However, previous studies indicate that nearly 75% of new statin users stop therapy by the end of the first year. Key reasons for no longer taking the medication include side effects and cost, according to the groups.

The campaign to promote the USAGE survey also encourages doctors to engage in a clearer conversation about treatment barriers, including side effects, medication cost, cholesterol level tracking, and the importance of therapeutic lifestyle changes.

The companies and groups behind the study are each targeting distinct segments. The National Lipid Association will focus on reaching out to the healthcare community, while Eli Lilly and Kowa will target 71 million Americans diagnosed with high cholesterol and those caring for them, Garman said. Makovsky is working on all these efforts.

The campaign's outreach components include a website, a media tour, and presentations at medical meetings. Garman said the effort does not have a major social media component.

“The goal is making the information both accessible and usable to patients and physicians in an effort to bring them to a moment of truth about the disease,” said Tom Jones, SVP of the health practice at Makovsky. “If we can do that, then we've done our job.”

In response to possible criticism that the campaign's goal is to boost sales of the companies' statin drugs, Garman pointed out that the outreach effort is unbranded. However, she said the companies could update their marketing material to physicians incorporating findings from the survey.

“At the end of the day, not managing cholesterol puts consumers at risk for a potential fatal outcome,” Garman said.

Earlier this year, Pfizer began focusing on the "Lipitor for You" program after losing patent exclusivity for the drug.

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