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Pharmaceutical sales

First market the disease, then the drug

Retired tennis player Monica Seles is raising awareness in the media about B.E.D. disorder. She has declined to say how much she is being paid for the campaign.

AUTOR 26/Joelle_Philippe BRUSSELS 27 DE FEBRERO DE 2015 13:15 h
monica seles, B.E.D. Monica Seles, representative for the campaign to raise awareness on B.E.D.

Diversification is one of the first strategies once you have achieved the maturity of a brand. In the drugs market, the process of creating a patent, obtaining the authorization of the Administration and commercializing the drug is long, expensive and exhausting.

A shortcut is to “diversify” in another way, skipping the research step: using the same drug to treat different diseases. 

That is what Shire Pharmaceuticals has done with one of their bestselling drugs, Vyvanse, which was first approved by US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.), and now has recently won the authorization to treat Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.).

An article in the New York Times explains that Shire’s strategy has been to “market the disease” first . The article describes how the pharmaceutical company is using a retired tennis player who suffered from the disorder, Monica Seles, to raise awareness in the Media about the disorder, especially TV shows. Ms. Monica Seles appears to have declined to answer how much she was being paid for the campaign.

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder where patients tend to overeat through regular binges even when they are not hungry. The causes of binge eating are not very clear but they seem linked to low self-esteem, depression or stress. B.E.D. only received its category in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association.

Because Vyvanse is a prescription drug, the company cannot advertise it directly to the public. The disorder, however, can be “advertised” and Shire has a great advantage: they have in their hands the only treatment for B.E.D. approved by the FDA so far.

In parallel, a good marketing campaign to the doctors will convince them to use the drug rather than treating the disorder by other means, like therapy, which is often more expensive. 

Furthermore, the company has created a website for patients which explains that B.E.D. is the “most common eating disorder among adults” and includes a discussion guide and a printable B.E.D. symptom checklist for a possible visit to their doctor. The website includes also a section exclusively for health care providers with more specific and scientific information on the disorder.

Vyvanse is an amphetamine, a molecule that stimulates the central nervous system. Apart from A.D.H.D., amphetamines are also being used to treat depression, narcolepsy and obesity. Shire owns the patent of Vyvanse which will expire in 2023. It is only marketed in US, Canada and Brazil. 




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