At a glance: Charity thrusts Taxotere into media spotlight

Is this the cancer drug?
Yes, the Sanofi-Aventis brand has indications for several cancers, but recent coverage on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Five Live - and in The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and Daily Mail - has concentrated on its role in the fight against prostate cancer.

How has this happened?
The stories stemmed from a media relations campaign by The Prostate Cancer Charity. This included a press release in advance of its national conference last Friday, saying that patients in some areas of the country are not being prescribed Taxotere - despite the fact that NICE has recommended its use in the latter stages of prostate cancer. Kate Stewart is the charity's head of media and public affairs.

What are the main arguments?
From the Primary Care Trusts' point of view, cost: a course of Taxotere could cost up to £10,000. But the charity argues that the drug provides landmark pain relief and added life expectancy of three months - plus, of course, NICE has recommended it.

Any highlights in terms of coverage so far?
From a comms perspective, comments made by BBC correspondent Phil Mackie on Radio 4's Today programme were particularly interesting. He said that prostate cancer does not have a high profile because it ‘has not got the same PR behind it' as other disease areas. Also, when presenter Ed Stourton asked him what patients should do if they find themselves being denied treatment, Mackie said: ‘Go to the media.'

Is Sanofi-Aventis running any media activity?
No, none at all off the back of this. And it is at pains to point out that it had nothing to do with The Prostate Cancer Charity's programme - although the pharma company is ‘delighted' with the coverage, of course. Brand comms manager is David Keown, with Manning Selvage & Lee providing agency support.

What are Taxotere's rivals?
There aren't any. It is the first brand to offer patients some hope of pain relief and extended life post-hormone therapy. It is only for men in the latter stages of the disease for whom hormone therapy is no longer effective. The drug is not a cure, but has been shown to improve quality of life.

For further information visit prostate-cancer.org.uk

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