Two pharma companies have released new direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads concerning lung health: a new quit-smoking ad by Pfizer and an idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) ad by Boehringer Ingelheim.
The new Pfizer ad features a cartoon turkey trying to quit smoking in a mellow, one-minute TV commercial. According to a Pfizer spokeswoman, the ad is a play on quitting “cold turkey” or kicking the habit suddenly; a strategy that often fails. Here, Pfizer advises consumers to quit “slow turkey” with the help of Chantix, a nicotine-free prescription pill.
The relaxed imagery is coupled with phrases like “ease into quitting”, giving viewers the impression that quitting can be achieved over time.
However, the efficacy of Chantix has been questioned in the past. A 2016 study by University of Wisconsin researchers showed that Chantix was no better at helping people kick the habit compared to nicotine patches and lozenges. Moreover, there is some doubt that gradual smoking cessation is superior to “cold turkey” strategies.
One study randomized nearly 700 people into abrupt cessation groups or gradual cessation groups, and their smoking habits were recorded four weeks after the quit date. The researchers found that 49 percent of the abrupt-cessation group abstained from smoking at the four-week check-in compared to 39.2 percent of the gradual-cessation group. These findings suggest that quitting cold turkey might actually work better than quitting with products like Chantix.
Still, Chantix performed well according to Pfizer’s 2018 Q4 report. The drug brought in $838 million in the US, a 13 percent increase from 2017 revenues.
According to the Pfizer spokeswoman, the new cold turkey commercial will run alongside the Ray Liotta commercial, which first aired last year.
To shed light on a lesser known lung disease, Boehringer Ingelheim released its first branded ad for Ofev, an anti-fibrotic drug for the treatment of IPF. People with IPF present with symptoms shared by other lung diseases, making it challenging for doctors to diagnose it. Indeed, patients might not seek treatment because they do not fully understand disease progression.
To illuminate this problem, Boehringer Ingelheim depicts a father with IPF and his son, who is concerned about his father’s health.
“[We want to] remind patients that they don’t fight IPF only for themselves, they also do it for the people they love,” told Al Masucci, vice president of the IPF business unit at Boehringer Ingelheim to FiercePharma. “By choosing to treat IPF, patients can build memories and a legacy that they can pass on to their loved ones.”
Adding a sentimental touch to an ad can help viewers relate more with the people they see on TV. Merck recently released a Keytruda ad featuring a doctor and a patient in response to patients wanting better representation of themselves in drug commercials. The Boehringer ad signals patients to rely on their loved ones for support, so they don’t need to face the disease alone.
DTC pharmaceutical advertising expenditure soared to an all-time high at the close of 2018. However, if drug manufacturers are expected to include drug list prices in their TV ads, many fear this will hurt sales or confuse patients. This could be bad news for Pfizer given its $485 price tag on 30 days worth of Chantix.