$50 Mil Campaign: Pharma firms ready FluMist push

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Biotechnology firm MedImmune and partner Wyeth Pharmaceuticals are readying a $40 million to $50 million direct-to-consumer campaign for FluMist, the first nasally administered vaccine to fight influenza.

FluMist, co-marketed by both companies, was approved June 17 by the Food and Drug Administration, but only for use in healthy individuals ages 5 to 49. FluMist is inhaled, much like sinus sprays.

Armando Anido, senior VP-sales and marketing at MedImmune, said a campaign aimed at physicians and pharmacists will start as early as this week. The professional account is handled by Lally, McFarland & Pantello, a unit of Havas' Euro RSCG Worldwide, New York.

Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, won the direct-to-consumer work for FluMist in February. A national, integrated DTC campaign will begin by September, Mr. Anido said. The theme of the campaign will be centered around the disruptions caused by the flu, such as missed work and school days. Saatchi executives declined to comment.

An estimated 17 million to 50 million cases of flu are reported nationwide each year, resulting in an average of 70 million missed work days and 30 million missed school days, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Another aspect of the campaign will emphasize this as an alternative to the flu shot. Dr. Robert B. Belshe, a professor at St. Louis University, who was the FDA's lead investigator on the clinical trials for FluMist, said that although the 5 to 49 age group is often the healthiest, using FluMist would make the traditional shot more readily available to those who need it.

Flu shots are often free, or a patient is charged a minimal co-payment by his insurance company. A FluMist prescription is likely to cost about $46, but MedImmune is still working out the cost with health maintenance organizations and insurance companies, and whether it will also be covered by a co-payment.

Fast Facts

* First nasally administered vaccine approved by the FDA

* Typical flu disruption includes an average of seven to 15 days of illness, five to six days of restricted activity, three to four days bed rest and three days of missed work

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