Merck hands Erbitux UK promo work to Avenue

Merck Pharmaceuticals has appointed Avenue HKM as it ramps up UK promotional activity behind its recently launched colon cancer drug Erbitux.

Avenue beat Shire Health London, Santé Communications, Trinity PR and TaylorWhitmore in a five-way shootout for the contract, which is the agency’s first with Merck Pharmaceuticals, the UK arm of Germany’s Merck KGaA.

Avenue is handling professional relations, medical education plus media relations for the product, which launched in the UK last month.

Erbitux is the first monoclonal antibody to be licensed for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.

Avenue reports to Merck oncology business unit head Denise Richard, who said: ‘We hope Erbitux will be widely available to all patients.’

A three-strong agency team is being run by CEO Joanna Marchant, alongside associate programme director Sian Hurst.

Marchant said: ‘The UK is lagging behind other European countries in the types of chemotherapy treatments offered to people with colorectal cancer.’

The appointment of Avenue further bolsters the PR clout behind Erbitux – Burson-Marsteller was appointed to handle international media relations for the brand in May (PRWeek, 14 May).

Merck KGaA, which is headquartered in Darmstadt, gained EU marketing approval in all 25 member states for Erbitux earlier this year.

The market for colon cancer drugs is hotting up, with Swiss-based Roche preparing to launch its own brand, Avastin.

Two weeks ago, Roche confirmed the appointment of Resolute Communications to handle UK PR for the drug (PRWeek, 9 July).

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