Asthma patients are unfamiliar with biologic brands, but open to try — Phreesia survey
People living with asthma are open to trying new biologic treatments now on the market — they just haven’t heard of them. Only 5% have heard of Dupixent, Sanofi and Regeneron’s multi-indication asthma and eczema blockbuster, a new survey from Phreesia reported.
Considering the fact that Dupixent spent more than half a billion on advertising in 2021 — $524 million to be exact and the highest media spending by any pharma brand in 2021 — that would seem to be a fairly low awareness number.
The even worse news for other asthma biologics is that Dupixent’s 5% was the highest among the newer meds recognized at all by patients. Next in line was Novartis’ Xolair recognized by 4%, the Phreesia PatientInsights survey found. GlaxoSmithKline’s Nucala and AstraZeneca’s Fasenra followed up, tying at 1% recognition among the asthma patients surveyed. Both Nucala and Fasenra also spend millions annually on mainstream media to advertise the brands.
“Just because people with asthma are seeing TV ads, they’re not necessarily connecting it to them. I think that’s where the value of targeted messaging is so important in reaching those moderate to severe patients to activate them to have that conversation,” Elizabeth Hebert, senior research manager at Phreesia, said.
The good news for biologic makers in Phreesia’s survey? Asthma patients are open to new treatments. Among people with moderate to severe asthma and who have never tried a biologic, 62% said they would likely try them. When asked why they hadn’t done so yet, 58% said they hadn’t heard about the newer biologics.
Why not? There’s an information gap between patients and physicians. Patients said physicians didn’t tell them about the drugs, but the Phreesia analysts also said patients tend to underreport their symptoms. So patients who might benefit from a biologic don’t report all of their symptoms or don’t consider their asthma severe, even though they would qualify by numeric measures such as inhaler overuse or the number of wheezing episodes. Without that self-reporting, doctors would be less likely to bring up the newer options meant for moderate to severe cases.
Joyce Wang, Phreesia associate director in research, said, “This is a condition where patients play a major role in disease management. We knew there was a gap, we just didn’t know how large.”
She added, “Patients just need more information, both regarding a better understanding of their condition and a better understanding of different treatment approaches that might be good for them.”
Doctors are key to those discussions. Among patients who have tried a biologic, 60% said they did so because of a doctor’s recommendation.
Another gap in the biologic brand awareness may be due to media habits. As Hebert said, people who don’t consume a lot of traditional TV media and advertising, such as younger audiences who use mostly ad-free streaming services, may not see the ads.
Awareness of older asthma drug brands was much higher. Almost half (44%) were familiar with Advair and GlaxoSmithKline’s combined inhaled corticosteroid and bronchodilator and 43% were aware of Merck’s Singulair. Both of those older meds have generic version competitors.
Phreesia’s advice to pharma marketers is to help patients understand who the meds are for.
“Pharma companies can combat the notion that biologics are only appropriate for very ill asthma patients by creating content that clearly outlines the symptoms that might make a patient a good candidate for a biologic asthma medication. That educational content also should emphasize that patients with the symptoms described don’t have to suffer through them,” its report suggests.