Campaign: Asacol targets GPs to stave off rival brands - Healthcare PR

Campaign: Ask for Asacol

Client: Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals

PR team: Healthcare Solutions

Timescale: November 2002-ongoing

Budget: £100,000 per year

Asacol MR is used to treat ulcerative colitis - a chronic, recurring disease of the large bowel. Around 97 per cent of repeat Asacol prescriptions come from GPs, with market data showing that 65 per cent of these are written generically. Until 2003 there were no mesalazine 400mg generic substitutes for the brand. But the launch of two rival products moved Asacol's manufacturer, Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals (P&G), to hire Healthcare Solutions to challenge generic substitution.

Objectives

To educate GPs, Primary Care Trust prescription advisers and gastroenterologist thought leaders on the importance of prescribing by brand, rather than generically, to avoid accidental switching of patients stabilised on Asacol. To increase branded prescription from GPs.

Strategy and Plan

Healthcare Solutions' thought-leader strategy aimed to gain endorsement from medical advisers to convince GPs of the scientific evidence and benefits of Asacol, while selling in stories to media to imply the new generics had to match up to Asacol.

The team briefed the National Association of Colitis & Crohn's (NACC) on the generics 'threat', while news hooks for the medical press centred around current prescription advice on the non-interchangeability of mesalazines.

There was a mailing campaign to GPs and PCTs, which was followed by telephone questionnaires. Advertorials were placed in key publications and a CD on the importance of branded mesalazine prescription featured in GPs' magazine Update.

Measurement and Evaluation

An article in peer-reviewed publication Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics provided support evidence and news hooks for the branded prescription messages. Reprints were mailed to PCTs and lead prescribers. Two articles in NACC's newsletter reassured patients and supported branded prescription.

In all, 34 articles were published by November 2003, including pieces in influential publications such as GP, Community Pharmacy and Gastroenterology Today. The CD was distributed to 13,000 GPs, with 800 more requesting a copy.

Results

As of January 2005 there had been a 19 per cent growth in branded prescriptions - against the client's original target of ten per cent.

The campaign's messages have now reached the target audience more than 60 times, generating two million opportunities to see. All news stories and articles communicated the branded-prescription message.

Following the mail campaign, 71 per cent of GP practices and PCTs intended to take action to flag patient notes or default computers for branded mesalazine (Asacol) prescriptions. More than 125 PCTs supported branded prescription and communicated this to GPs.

Gastroenterology Today editor Martin Goldman says: 'On the whole, I thought that Healthcare Solutions did its best for P&G. Even when the company tried to be rigid in its view of information, we rapidly reached a compromise that suited everyone. I genuinely believe that there is an important message here, and I was keen to pass it on to readers.'

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