Did Biogen waste $40 million on DTC?

KEY TAKEAWAY: Spending $40 million on a DTC campaign to increase awareness of a drug that people are demolishing on social media is a waste of money. Surely DTC marketers can do better than this.

Whenever a drug company executive tells you that Rx’s are down, but dollars are up most of us would understand that it might be because of a price increase. Tecfidera had price increases, including a 6% hike for Tecfidera’s price tag in August and 5.5$ increase in March.

According to STAT; some patient advocates slammed the ad for what they called an unrealistic portrayal of living with MS. The condition can vary dramatically, but many patients experience chronic, severe fatigue and numbness, even when they’re not in a state of relapse.“It just makes me cringe. I want to throw something at the TV,” said Laura Kolaczkowski, an Ohio resident who has MS.

On social media MS patients paint a bleak picture of Tecfidera with a lot of buzz around the drug’s side effects, almost all negative.  So the question is why in the hell would Biogen run DTC when so many MS patients are talking to one another and trashing the drug?  Does Biogen really believe that MS patients aren’t talking to one another?


Stat further says “what we do know is that, in the first six months the ad was on the airwaves, Biogen’s US revenue from Tecfidera increased by 3.6 percent over the previous six-month period.” Uh, maybe that’s because of the price increase?

There are several lessons here:

1ne: Raising awareness does not lead to an increase in Rx’s.

2wo: TV ads cannot overcome negative comments via social media.

3hree: You need a better understanding of how your audience is communicating with each other and use that feedback into your DTC, including asking a big question “can we DTC overcome these barriers?”.

Biogen essentially lost $40 million at a time when their CEO wants to “get costs under control”.  There are rumors that Biogen is in play, but my guess is that more layoffs are coming as the, once innovative, biotech company learns about competition the hard way.

2 thoughts on “Did Biogen waste $40 million on DTC?

  1. As a Neurologist who treats MS patients I continue to see patients drop off this medication because of the side effects. The advertising campaign only served to make my patients angry and my Biogen representative doesn’t come around any more. Like you said, a sad commentary on a once promising company.

  2. As a former employee, who left under her own accord, I can honestly say that this campaign was doomed from the start because of corporate politics and managers who are incompetent. The fallout will be more restrictions on any DTC marketing.

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