B-M to handle global comms for Erbitux

German pharma firm Merck KGaA is stepping up its international PR for Erbitux as it bids to position the brand as fundamental to the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.

Burson-Marsteller is handling international media relations to promote the drug, for which European approval is expected next month.

The agency aims to use key opinion leaders, data and third parties to raise awareness of colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon or rectum – and to deliver product messages to medical and consumer journalists.

Positive opinion for Erbitux was gained from advisory body the Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products (CPMP) in March.

The product was approved in the US three months ago by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

B-M’s account does not apply to North America, where healthcare agency MCS was appointed to promote Erbitux by the drug’s developer ImClone Systems and marketer Bristol-Myers Squibb a year ago (PRWeek, 10 June).

Erbitux’s profile surged in the US following the insider-trading scandal that brought domestic doyenne Martha Stewart to trial.

Stewart profited when she followed her broker’s advice to sell her shares in ImClone Systems in December 2001, shortly before news broke that Erbitux had been denied FDA approval. She is due to be sentenced next month.

B-M has worked with Merck for more than two years on the medical education programme for Erbitux.

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