NBA Rookie Jared Butler and Bristol Myers Squibb Partner on HCM Awareness Campaign

NBA Rookie Jared Butler and Bristol Myers Squibb Partner on HCM Awareness Campaign

New NBA recruit Jared Butler shares his experience of being diagnosed with HCM in Bristol Myers Squibb’s disease awareness campaign video. Photo credit: Bristol Myers Squibb.

Utah Jazz rookie Jared Butler is sharing his diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) by partnering with Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) for its new HCM awareness campaign. Butler said he received the diagnosis during a routine health exam when he was 18; it caught him off guard as he had no symptoms.

“The first time I heard the term hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, I was in the doctor’s office in the room getting diagnosed. And I didn’t have any symptoms,” said Butler in a video released this week as part of BMS’s new campaign “Could It Be HCM?

HCM is a genetic heart condition in which the muscle of the heart thickens, causing it to work harder to pump blood. While many people like Butler are asymptomatic, some people can experience shortness of breath, chest pain, arrhythmias or even sudden death. HCM is one of the most common inherited heart diseases, with a prevalence of one in 200 to one in 500 in the general population. However, because it can be asymptomatic, the condition often goes undiagnosed, so the estimates could be even higher. Increasing HCM awareness is thus important in improving the diagnosis of the disease.

In the HCM awareness video, Butler shared his HCM diagnosis publicly for the first time. His mother Juanea and cardiologist Dr. Michael Ackerman from the Mayo Clinic also appear in the video. Through genetic testing, it was revealed that Juanea carries the gene for the heart condition.

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BMS’s unbranded HCM awareness campaign is geared towards HCM awareness, including educating people about the risk and symptoms. In addition to the video featuring Butler, the campaign also includes a website with guides, including a symptoms list and a doctor discussion guide that people can use to help them talk to their doctor if they’re having symptoms, have a family history of the disease or have a suspicion that they might have it. It also features stories from other real-life patients about their journey to diagnosis.

BMS’s HCM awareness campaign appears to be timed ahead of the company’s anticipated FDA approval for its heart medication mavacamten to treat symptomatic obstructive HCM. BMS acquired the drug through its acquisition of MyoKardia in October 2020. In March 2021, the FDA accepted BMS’s new drug application (NDA) for mavacamten and gave the company a target date of January 28, 2022 for action/approval.

Butler was already competing in out-of-state basketball tournaments when he was 11 years old and went on to play college ball at Baylor University after transferring from the University of Alabama. The Louisiana native helped lead the Baylor Bears to the NCAA men’s basketball championship this year.

However, with the diagnosis, Butler’s basketball future seemed uncertain. He was not permitted to play or practice in the NBA and in June, the league referred him to a fitness-to-play panel. However, he was eventually cleared to play on July 17. Butler was selected in the second round of this year’s NBA draft on July 29 by the New Orleans Pelicans and was then traded to the Jazz via the Memphis Grizzlies.

Butler said the diagnosis left him “distraught” and he questioned whether he may even be able to play basketball anymore. He wondered whether he should “pursue an engineering degree and be a regular student.”

Dr. Ackerman explains that while many people with HCM don’t have symptoms, for those that do, they can often “be mistaken for other conditions,” making HCM awareness important.

Juanea said she felt “really really bad” when she found out she was a carrier of a mutated gene involved in HCM, but then had to come to “grips” with the fact that “this was something beyond [her] control.”

After the diagnosis, Dr. Ackerman gave Butler the go-ahead to play basketball and continues to monitor him, saying there’s no reason he can’t continue pursuing his dream of playing the game at a pro level.

As part of the HCM awareness campaign, Butler also said in a BMS press release that “While I have been able to continue playing basketball, I know my experience with HCM is different from others living with the condition, who may experience debilitating symptoms and have difficulty performing everyday tasks. However, I believe that my story can encourage people to learn more about HCM and, if they are experiencing symptoms, see a doctor.”

As part of improving HCM awareness, Dr. Ackerman stresses that people should get to know their family history and share it with their healthcare provider so that if they know of a relative with an HCM diagnosis, they should go and get checked.