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Hyperlipidaemia hype

There has been particular interest among GPs about the various statin treatments on offer from pharma. It is therefore essential to differentiate your product in the market.

It is essential to differentiate your product in the highly competitive statins market

The new GMS contract highlights the government's desire to reduce the death toll from coronary heart disease (CHD) in the UK, and lessen the burden placed on NHS hospitals to treat it.

Under the contract, GPs' performance will be evaluated in 10 disease areas; topping the list is CHD. Using a points system, GPs are now rewarded for the active management of patients, such as careful registering of patients, control and successful intervention.

The GMS target for healthy cholesterol levels is currently 5mmol/l. Since high cholesterol is one of the major causes of CHD, and because the most effective treatment for it at present is statins, there has been particular interest among GPs about the various statin treatments on offer by pharmaceutical companies.

Current data sources report that almost 2 million patients are being treated for high cholesterol with statins. The statins market is highly competitive, therefore differentiating your product from its rivals is essential.

We asked GPs to look at three ads in this market: Lipitor (atorvastatin) from Pfizer; Crestor (rosuvastatin) from AstraZeneca, and Ezetrol (ezetimibe), a dual inhibitor treatment to work with statins, from Merck Sharp & Dohme and Schering-Plough.

The three ads were tested using Generator, GfK Martin Hamblin's online omnibus, amongst 100 UK GPs who were asked to recall the ads unbranded, then branded and say what type of treatment the ad was promoting. The ads were also tested for interest and impact, the two key indicators of stopping power, as well as overall effectiveness.

Tough call

AZ's Crestor campaign is heavily information-based. Sticking to the hard facts, the company has not used any pictures or images, relying instead on numbers, data and graphs to illustrate the product's effectiveness. It had the lowest unbranded recall (23 per cent), but all GPs did name the brand correctly.

The ad for Lipitor, the UK's most prescribed statin, is based on emotional appeal and features a pair of feet up in front of a beautiful ocean and blue sky with the strapline Relax. In addition, the ad lists four reasons why GPs should choose Lipitor over other statins, including its effectiveness for achieving the GMS cholesterol target.

It was recalled by 45 per cent of doctors when unbranded and this increased to 59 per cent once the full branding of the ad was revealed. This is above average performance for prompted recall. Ezetrol is a dual inhibitor to be taken with statins to improve effectiveness. It is recommended for 'patients not controlled by statin alone'.

The ad features hand-drawn-style images of two men rowing - one with a T-shirt emblazoned with 'Ezetrol', the other with 'Statin' - rather than a photograph. The ad claims that Ezetrol offers 'superior efficacy to statin alone through dual inhibition'.

This ad performed incredibly well in recall tests and was remembered by 89 per cent of GPs when unbranded and 92 per cent when branded, significantly out-performing the average recall rate for pharma and healthcare ads. Some 66 per cent of GPs were also able to name the brand correctly when the ad was first shown to them.

Making an impact

When tested for stopping power, Ezetrol also performed well. Although interest in statins is clear from the overall performance of the ads tested, Ezetrol was considered interesting by 64 per cent of GPs. Lipitor was close behind with 62 per cent of GPs saying they found it interesting. However, just 42 per cent of GPs expressed an interest in the Crestor ad.

Our database gives Crestor an average performance in terms of interest rating, but considering how well the other two ads fared, and the interest in statins as a treatment, we would suggest that this ad may be underperforming in this area.

When it comes to impact, blue sea and skies still win the hearts of UK GPs. The ad for Lipitor was given high marks for impact (71 per cent). The rowers didn't fare too badly either with 68 per cent of GPs rating it for impact. However, just 18 per cent of GPs said the ad for Crestor made an impact.

It is worth bearing in mind the possible effect that re-registration of statins to over-the-counter status will have. Strong marketing planning, across both GP and patient groups, will be imperative for the future success of these products.

The Survey

The data for gp monitor was gathered using Generator, the monthly omnibus from GfK Martin Hamblin. It asked 100 GPs, representative of the UK population, whether they remembered seeing the advertisements for: Lipitor, Ezetrol and Crestor.

GPs were asked to look at both unbranded and branded ads for these products and try to identify the therapy area for the drug. We also tested the ads for stopping power using the MARS (Media Advertising Rating System) database for the treatment of high cholesterol.

The Author
For more information contact Mo Rice on 020 7340 0504 or Julie McGuigan on 020 7340 0534.

2nd September 2008

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