Bristol-Myers Squibb plans fall campaign for Plavix

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After a false start, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is ready to launch the first direct-to-consumer advertising for Plavix, its prescription heart attack and stroke prevention drug.

A TV and print campaign from Ogilvy & Mather Healthcare, New York, is expected in early fall. TV was shot late last month, using non-union talent in North Carolina.

Besides needing its ads approved, Bristol-Myers may have an additional U.S. Food & Drug Administration hurdle to clear before the campaign launches. Recent reports have tied the product to TTP, a condition that may cause anemia and affect the brain and kidneys.

Bristol-Myers could not be reached at press time, but the company has said that incidence of TTP is rare, with about four cases reported per 1 million patients.

EARLIER CAMPAIGN AXED

A DTC ad push for Plavix was planned for last year from CommonHealth, Parisippany, N.J., the agency for Schering-Plough's allergy drug Claritin. But the campaign never got off the ground, perhaps because of disagreements between the marketer and agency.

The agency and marketer parted ways, and Ogilvy -- which handles the high-profile DTC products Zocor, from Merck & Co., and Procrit, from Johnson & Johnson -- won the business in a review.

Plavix presents a marketing challenge and an opportunity. The product, which aims to prevent a recurrence of the conditions in patients who have endured recent heart attacks or strokes, competes against aspirin. Bayer Corp. recently has stepped up a campaign, from BBDO Worldwide, New York, that promotes its aspirin product's ability to prevent heart attacks.

Bristol-Myers' challenge is to persuade physicians and consumers that Plavix is a better option than less expensive, over-the-counter aspirin.

"Many, many patients take aspirin, and if you can somehow motivate them to switch from aspirin, the market could grow dramatically for Plavix," said Hemant Shah, an independent industry analyst.

SALES UP 128%

Even without DTC ad support, Plavix has been on a growth spurt. First-quarter results from Bristol-Myers showed a global sales increase of 128% from the year before, to $201 million.

Bristol-Myers needs the product to succeed to balance a setback suffered this spring when its application for a new hypertension drug, Vanlev, was pulled after concerns surfaced about side effects.

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