According to an article published in MM&M, biopharma company Gilead Sciences will use some unconventional platforms – including Tumblr, Snapchat and dating sites – as part of their pharmaceutical marketing strategy for their HIV preventative treatment, Truvada. The announcement was made during a call with investors last week, with Gilead’s EVP of worldwide commercial operations, James Myers, commenting that the marketing campaign will be aimed at boosting awareness in traditionally underserved populations.
According to Myers, awareness of Truvada and its use as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV, is high in some large cities like San Francisco, but much lower in others. In particular, he explains that those in inner city areas are most at risk of contracting HIV, and that social platforms may be the best way to reach these individuals.
Specifically, Gilead aims to raise awareness of Truvada in cities including New Orleans, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Oakland, and Newark. The HIV rate in San Francisco has been slowly on the decline, with officials naming Truvada as one of the contributing factors.
“There is an opportunity to replicate this success in other areas across the United States, and Gilead has been encouraged to play a more prominent role in PrEP education and has done so via the hiring of a field-based team,” said Kevin Young, Gilead’s COO. While awareness could go a long way to reducing the rate of infection across the country, Gilead’s other hurdle is getting payers to cover the cost of the preventive therapy.
For uninsured individuals, Truvada costs approximately $1,300 per month, however this is often less expensive than treating patient infected with HIV in the long-term. “If we can prevent HIV from occurring, ultimately that’s going to bring down costs of treatment – and that’s a lifetime cost of treatment,” said Meyers.
While some are confident in the drug’s potential to lower HIV infection rates, others have expressed concerns that the prophylactic could encourage risky sexual behavior. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation – an LA-based patient advocacy group – have said that people taking the drug may decide to stop using condoms, thereby increasing their risk of contracting other STIs.
Truvada was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012, with a reported 110,000 people taking the PrEP at the end of last year. The drug – which uses a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir – is also used to treat patients with HIV.