Autoimmune and cancer patients are surprisingly unaware of biologic treatments

February 4, 2019 Gintare Greenfeld and Matthew Arnold

Pharmas invest vast sums in developing new biologic treatments, and so have a lot on the line when launching them. Achieving maximal awareness is essential to attaining the sales velocity necessary to recoup R&D costs. New biologics are, as a result, usually supported accordingly at launch, with fairly generous promotional budgets.

So why is awareness of these treatments so low? 

In our 2018 patient research, we tested awareness of biologics in some key conditions, including autoimmune disorders and cancer, and found it surprisingly modest, with only 1 in 5 RA patients, for example, aware of a biologic for their condition. With Orencia, Humira, Cimzia, Enbrel, Simponi, Remicade, Rituxan, Actrema, Xeljanz and more on the market, how can so many sufferers remain unaware of these treatment options?

Physicians are the most obvious weak link here – across all conditions, among those who were aware of a biologic treatment, 60% had learned of it through their doctor. However, looking at those who were aware of biologics but were not using one for treatment, 22% said their doctor had not recommended one (prior authorization was the top factor, with 29% saying their condition was not severe enough to qualify them for a biologic, followed by side effects, cited by 27%).     

However, that’s not the only hole in pharma’s biologics bucket. Patients educate themselves about treatment options and research condition info online – which is where 27% of patients aware of biologic options learned about them. Greater and smarter investment in digital channels could help here (and DRG Digital can help with the smarter part!). 

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