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The Saatchi & Saatchi Health Product Launch Award


Sativex: Small Victories for people with MS spasticity

Bayer Healthcare in association with Langland

Summary of work

Winner: Bayer Healthcare in association with Langland

The Bayer Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)) UK launch in June 2010 was one of the only Multiple Sclerosis (MS) spasticity treatment innovations in over 20 years. Perhaps most exceptionally, it’s the first ever cannabis-derived medicine granted a marketing licence.

Sativex was launched into a stagnant market. It was long awaited and highly anticipated. Spasticity management in MS was considered something of a ‘black art’. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) and people with MS were frustrated from lack of innovation and options, some patients turned to ‘street cannabis’ for spasticity relief. The Sativex launch established a new therapeutic option for spasticity, re-energising the category and raising awareness.

Key stakeholder engagement meant customer needs and feedback were considered and acted upon, providing critical insights and considerable understanding of the current market situation, ahead of a multi-channel launch campaign.

Many people with MS were in a desperate situation, their spasticity symptoms uncontrolled by conventional medication. Managing expectations about Sativex’s benefits, through effective communication with HCPs working in MS, was Bayer's highest priority. The campaign wasn’t about suddenly being able to climb mountains or run marathons, but things everyone takes for granted, things MS can cruelly take away – the ability to open a bottle, dry your hair or wear normal shoes. This became the ‘Small Victories’ campaign.

The consultative approach helped change Sativex perceptions, resulting in strong advocacy and good HCP uptake. Treatment access issues and the plight of people with MS in the current system were highlighted to HCPs and the public. Bayer drove all mobilising HCPs to fight for treatment access and improve spasticity management, initiating a much-needed review of current guidelines.

Judges comments

“This patient insight-led, market-shaping campaign shows very strong planning in every phase. The subject wasn’t sensationalised and given the risks faced they did a brilliant job in keeping it ethical. The result was a high-profile holistic campaign that changed perception.”

Stakeholder comments

“Bayer went to great lengths to get the views of those people who would have direct patient access in order to guarantee that appropriate information was given and patients would in turn feel supported by a holistic team approach to the launch of this much anticipated treatment. The launch of Sativex was done once Bayer was assured that patients and HCPs were educated around the terms of the licence, the exact protocol for starting the treatment and the monitoring and assessment for follow up of treatment. Relevant literature was supplied and there were a team of people to discuss any queries or concerns with. I do not feel that Bayer could have done more to support the launch of Sativex with all the appropriate education and information that was available.”
MS specialist nurse

“I have been one of the key investigators of medicinal cannabinoids over the last 11 years and will be receiving the Award for Clinical Research for Major Contributions to the Re-introduction of Cannabis as a Medicine from the International Association for Cannabis Medicines in early September 2011. My research and clinical work with Sativex over many years has led to my being consulted by Bayer in the early launch preparation stages. Bayer continually seeks my input, experience and general knowledge of spasticity in MS, cannabinoids and their mode of action and ongoing trials. It has been a privilege to be involved in the launch of this much anticipated product. I greatly appreciate the work Bayer has done in preparing and bringing to market a long awaited option for patients with severe and distressing spasticity that is otherwise untreatable.”
Consultant neurologist


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Key dates

Entry deadline 26 August 2022
Extended entry deadline 2 September 2022*
*additional fee applies
Judging Day 6 October 2022
Company/Team of the Year Interviews 21 October 2022
PMEA Event 23 November 2022