Anti-obesity drug is here at last?

Sanofi-Aventis prefers the term 'weight management', but yes. Now cleared for use across all 25 EU member states, Acomplia (rimonabant) launched last week with a press conference at London's Science Museum.

Who’s handling comms?

At Sanofi-Aventis, Jeni Wilson is head of brand comms, while Cressida Ward is UK director of comms. The manufacturer’s agency is Manning Selvage & Lee. Haven’t there been big changes in MS&L’s healthcare team?
That’s right – long-serving UK health director Sally Bradford has recently quit (PRWeek, 25 May), although the UK account director for Acomplia is Ceri Richards. Jennifer Garrett is in charge of MS&L’s UK business, while Carolyn Brown, the agency’s new head of international health-care, is now overseeing Acomplia’s global brief.

What form will product comms take? A reasonable enough question, but neither Sanofi-Aventis nor MS&L is forthcoming on the programme over the next few months, deeming the information ‘commercially sensitive’. Wilson will only confirm that the drug is aimed at patients with a body mass index above 27, and who probably have type 2 diabetes.

What are Acomplia’s rivals? Roche’s Xenical (orlistat), handled by Hill & Knowlton senior associate director Charlotte Vereker, is one. Abbott’s Reductil (sibutramine), handled by Ruder Finn, is the other, with the account managed by head of healthcare Penny Whitecross.

Has Acomplia’s launch galvanised the competitors? H&K says Xenical continues to be promoted as part of an ongoing weight management campaign at PCT level. Ruder Finn’s approach to Reductil is to emphasise its role as an element in changing long-term eating behaviour.

Hasn’t Sanofi-Aventis been in the news for something else recently? Sure has. The company was on the back foot just days after Acomplia’s launch, with The Observer last Sunday running a story headlined ‘Cancer drug firm’s PR trip sparks a row’. The story was about its invite of cancer charity officials and MPs to a fact finding trip to Budapest and Paris. Cressida Ward described the trip as ‘purely educational’.

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