WARREN, NJ: Drug manufacturer Celgene and PR firm Makovsky & Co. this week reported success in their efforts to reintroduce Thalidomide to the US market.
As late as two years ago, 88% of all media coverage of the drug, now named Thalomid, was negative. In the months since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of leprosy, however, print media coverage has been 83% positive. Negative broadcast images have declined as well.
Celgene and Makovsky attributed this reversal to a multi-pronged marketing strategy that acknowledged Thalomid's past as 'the birth-defect drug' while focusing on its newly discovered benefits.
The company worked in conjunction with two unlikely allies: the FDA and the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada (TVAC). Based on their recommendations, Celgene decided not to alter the drug's name.
'We wanted a close association with the old Thalidomide to make sure that pharmacists, physicians and patients would remember the risks associated with it, and take the necessary precautions,' explained Diane Weiser, Makovsky's senior VP/director of health services.
According to Celgene president/CEO John W. Jackson, the measures taken to insure Thalomid is used safely comprised 'one of the most comprehensive programs ever to govern the use of a prescription drug.'
Among its components was STEPS (System for Thalidomide Education and Prescribing Safety). This mandatory educational program required all patients, pharmacists and physicians to, among other things, watch a graphic video news release in which disabled children of first-generation Thalidomide patients urge viewers to use Thalomid responsibly.