Ironwood’s DTC ads light the fuse to action

KEY TAKEAWAY: DTC ads should light the fuse for information seeking by your target audience.  That information, more and more, is going online for more information and finding out about side effects, cost and what others are saying about your drug.  If you fail to keep the fuse lit you risk a dud instead of a DTC explosion.

Ironwood pharma is touting the effectiveness of their DTC campaign for IBS.  The original DTC ad launched in 2014 and tested significantly higher in market research than the industry benchmark on motivation scores among IBS-C and CIC patients, according to the company. The campaign drove total prescriptions (TRx) up 21% compared with the pre-DTC-launch trend established in the 12 months leading up to the launch of the drug.

IBS affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States (10 to 15% of the population). About 2 in 3 IBS sufferers are female. About 1 in 3 IBS sufferers are male. IBS affects people of all ages, even children.   For those with IBS an additional burden comes from living in a society where the word “bowel” may scarcely be spoken. Individuals must cope with multiple symptoms that affect every aspect of their lives. Those around them may be unaware of the impact, or even the existence, of the disorder, but IBS can have a profound effect on the quality of life for those with the condition

When Linzess was launched it technically was the only one in its class with an approval for IBS with constipation. Ironwood knew this and evolved their campaign from awareness to empathy and it seems to have worked propelling Linzess to over $600 million in sales. To Ironwood’s credit their campaign did make sufferers more comfortable talking about IBS.  Their first campaign presented the symptoms and told patients that this drug may be for them; the second tapped into deeper feelings that patients were experiencing.  Empathy was key. Competitors are keenly aware of the success of Linzess and new competing drugs are on their way to frustrated IBS sufferers.  A quick analysis on Twitter indicates that IBS patients are more than willing to try a new drug “that works”.

The bottom line is that Ironwood was successful in lighting the fuse of DTC ads and to keep it burning.  Time will tell if they can compete against new entrants to the market, but I believe they have learned a lot and have a great DTC team in place.


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