B-M wins UK blood cancer launch brief

LONDON: Burson-Marsteller is to handle a pre-launch and launch UK PR campaign for Velcade, the first approved treatment in more than a decade to treat patients with multiple myeloma – a cancer of the blood.

B-M has scooped a UK-specific contract to promote the brand on top of an international remit secured after a competitive pitch late last year.

European regulatory approval for Velcade, the first of a new class of cancer medicines called proteasome inhibitors, is expected from the European Commission within three months.

Velcade senior product manager UK and Ireland Berkeley Vincent said B-M had landed an ‘ongoing’ awareness-raising programme. Multiple myeloma is the second most-common blood cancer after non-Hodgkins lymphoma and is diagnosed in around 2,500 patients in the UK each year.

Explaining the agency hire, Vincent said: ‘Despite being the second most common blood cancer, public awareness is low.’

Velcade was developed by Massachusetts-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals but an agreement was struck with Ortho-Biotech, a division of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen-Cilag company, to develop the drug and market it outside the US.

B-M global J&J client leader Kate Triggs heads the Velcade account. B-M reports to Vincent and, for global issues, to Belgium-based Daniel de Schrevyer, global pharma comms director at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals Services.

In February, the European Medicines Evaluation Agency issued a positive opinion to recommend Velcade approval under exceptional circumstances for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior therapies and have demonstrated disease progression on the last therapy.

Millennium received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for Velcade in May last year.

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