More than a month since a Supreme Court draft decision potentially overturning Roe v. Wade was made public, healthcare companies in the abortion and contraception space have endeavored to make sure their messaging maintains a sense of scientific accuracy and compassion.
Whether that means committing to transparency and science-based communication or pivoting to new channels to reach politicians and payers, these organizations face new challenges in a post-Roe world.
Overturning abortion rights will have a profound effect on contraception access. Some public health experts have already sounded the alarm that new restrictions around birth control and other reproductive healthcare could possibly appear, making the task at hand especially urgent for some companies.
Telehealth company Nurx, which provides contraception, birth control prescriptions and home-testing options for sexually-transmitted infections, saw a 300% increase in requests for emergency contraception when the draft was leaked, according to CEO Varsha Rao. Demand has remained high, which has spurred the company to embark on an outreach effort.
“When the potential Roe decision was leaked, we reached out to our community via email and social channels to let them know that Nurx is here for them, and that our medical team remains devoted to helping them prevent unplanned pregnancies,” Rao said. “Our medical providers have been hearing from patients that they’re deeply concerned about losing access to abortion, and worried that it may become harder to access birth control as well.”
Beyond communicating that support, however, Rao said Nurx doesn’t plan to make any major changes to its overall messaging. Instead, the company is sticking with its current marketing, which relies on conveying scientifically accurate information to patients and providers alike.
“Nurx has always shared candid, science-based information about birth control and all aspects of sexual health, because we also offer PrEP, STI testing and herpes treatment,” Rao noted. “We consider it part of our mission to de-stigmatize sexual health and provide compassionate, non-judgmental care and that will not change.”
She added, however, that “if Roe is overturned, we will feel even more urgency about raising awareness of birth control and emergency contraception options and helping people understand how to access them and use them effectively.”
For other companies in the contraception space, the leaked draft has already spurred a major shift in how they approach their marketing and messaging — and a policy shift seems imminent.
Catherine Atkinson, chief commercial officer at women’s sexual and reproductive health company Evofem Biosciences, noted that her company has shifted its communications strategy from focusing on HCPs to targeting payers and policymakers.
“When you take a look at the traditional model when you’re commercial and launching a product, ideally you wouldn’t have an issue with having to reason with payers or get politicians involved and affect policy,” Atkinson explained. “But that’s what we have to do to have a successful launch.”
“In the contraceptive space, we believe what a woman uses is a decision between her and her healthcare provider, and we constantly have messaging on that available. But now we have to stretch what we’re doing to payers and policymakers because of this Supreme Court ruling,” Atkinson added.
Evofem’s hormone-free prescription contraceptive, Phexxi, launched in 2020. Despite being FDA-approved, however, many women still face obstacles in accessing it, as well as other contraception products, due to payers and pharmacy benefit managers not adhering to federal guidelines around coverage.
“The fact that you have an FDA-approved product and the payers don’t provide coverage for women, especially when a doctor says this is the best choice for them, is really insane,” Atkinson said. “We are going back to crafting the messaging to politicians and payers to ensure that we’re giving women unrestricted access.”
The entire Evofem team, not just its communications and marketing leaders, are involved in what Atkinson characterizes as “a call to action” for payers. The company provided information for letters sent by four Senators to healthcare insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers, which questioned their lack of coverage for Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception.
“If Roe does not stand, our hope is that the government, payers and everybody else truly understand that we need to give women control and flexibility at least over the contraceptive that they choose to use,” Atkinson stressed. “We’re driving in multiple lanes and tackling it from all sides… It’s not lost on us that this is every meeting we have here now. It’s given us a sense of urgency.”
This story first appeared on mmm-online.com.