Horizon Therapeutics CEO Tim Walbert fronts the pharma company's new

Q&A: Hori­zon CEO Tim Wal­bert goes from C-suite to face of the brand

Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics CEO Tim Wal­bert runs a rare dis­ease com­pa­ny, but he’s al­so a pa­tient. While his con­di­tion hasn’t been a se­cret, Wal­bert is step­ping out for the first time as the face of rare dis­ease in Hori­zon’s new cor­po­rate cam­paign called “It’s Per­son­al.”

Or rather, as one of the faces of rare dis­ease — oth­er Hori­zon em­ploy­ees will al­so share their sto­ries as pa­tients and care­givers as part of the ef­fort.

Wal­bert is fa­mil­iar with the typ­i­cal long path of rare dis­ease pa­tients. He was first di­ag­nosed as a ju­nior in col­lege with an au­toim­mune dis­ease sim­i­lar to rheuma­toid arthri­tis, but he spent an­oth­er 10 years be­fore re­ceiv­ing a sec­ond rare dis­ease di­ag­no­sis. More re­cent­ly, he un­for­tu­nate­ly added the role of care­giv­er to a child with a rare dis­ease when his 13-year-old son was di­ag­nosed last year with two au­toim­mune con­di­tions.

Wal­bert joined Hori­zon as CEO in 2008 af­ter work­ing at Ab­bott — now Ab­b­Vie — in im­munol­o­gy on the launch of an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry bi­o­log­ic Hu­mi­ra. Be­fore that he worked at Sear­le, now part of Pfiz­er, on pain med Cele­brex. The then-fledg­ing Hori­zon had on­ly a hand­ful of em­ploy­ees and no of­fice space, lit­er­al­ly work­ing from Wal­bert’s liv­ing room.

Late­ly though, Hori­zon’s been on a tear. De­spite a pair of ma­jor set­backs with the pan­dem­ic clos­ing in­fu­sion cen­ters just weeks af­ter its key Te­pez­za thy­roid eye dis­ease ap­proval and then lat­er when Catal­ent can­celled Te­pez­za man­u­fac­tur­ing slots to pri­or­i­tize Covid-19 vac­cine pro­duc­tion, the com­pa­ny re­port­ed $820 mil­lion in Te­pez­za sales in 2020. That ac­count­ed for about 40% of the phar­ma’s record $2.2 bil­lion in 2020 sales, blast­ing past $1.3 bil­lion in 2019 sales.

While “It’s Per­son­al” is Hori­zon’s first cor­po­rate brand­ing ef­fort, the grow­ing phar­ma com­pa­ny has long re­lied on di­rect-to-con­sumer ad­ver­tis­ing as a key part of its com­mer­cial­iza­tion strat­e­gy. It’s al­so in­vest­ed heav­i­ly in un­brand­ed aware­ness cam­paigns in­clud­ing RareIs which be­gan as a so­cial me­dia aware­ness cam­paign that’s evolved in­to a rare dis­ease re­source and sup­port com­mu­ni­ty plat­form.

Wal­bert re­cent­ly talked to End­points Mar­ket­ingRx se­nior ed­i­tor Beth Sny­der Bu­lik about Hori­zon’s new cam­paign, and the rare per­son­al jour­ney that’s helped steer his ca­reer.

How did the new “It’s Per­son­al” cam­paign come about? Can you talk about your per­son­al con­nec­tion and why you want­ed to do it?

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