Soap opera star helps BI prepare the market for Pradaxa (dabigatran)

What can a soap opera star teach us about atrial fibrillation? Not much. But perhaps she can teach us a whole lot about pharmaceutical marketing in the 21st century.

Her first lesson is about market preparation, or creating awareness and demand for a product before it’s available. In this case the product is Pradaxa, and BI needs to convince millions of people they will be better off paying $8-$12 a day for the drug instead of the much cheaper, generic warfarin.

As you may be aware, today (Monday, September 20) the FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee is reviewing the NDA for dabigatran (Pradaxa, Boehringer Ingelheim) for the prevention of stroke in patients with AF. Most observers, including myself, believe that the committee is highly likely to recommend approval, and that the drug will be available early next year.

BI also appears highly confident of the result. Just a few days after the panel, on Thursday, BI is sponsoring a media briefing in Rockefeller Center with soap opera star Susan Lucci. Lucci’s husband, we are told, has AF, and the two “are talking publicly for the first time to raise awareness about atrial fibrillation.”

Of course all this seems a bit preposterous. It seems likely that the Luccis are talking publicly for the first time because until BI paid them a great deal of money to do so no one actually cared or wanted them to talk publicly about AF.

The poster for the media briefing (see below) includes a factoid: “86% of patients with AFib surveyed wish there were greater public awareness of the condition.” There may be reason to doubt the validity of this fact, as it hasn’t exactly been peer reviewed. According to a tiny footnote: “data on file.” But I am extremely confident that 99% of BI executives wish for greater awareness of AF, and, in fact, are willing to spend many millions of dollars over the next few years creating that awareness.

Here’s the media invitation:

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