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Case study: Demonstrating the need to treat hyponatraemia

Otsuka faced the challenge of educating  nephrologists and endocrinologists across Europe

Published: 18 Jan 2012

Demonstrating the need to treat hyponatraemia.

Client: Otsuka Pharmaceutical Europe Ltd.

Agency: ApotheCom, a Huntsworth Health company

Campaign: Correcting the balance

Timescale: October 2008 to September 2010

A quick look

With the launch of Samsca, Otsuka faced the challenge of educating clinicians across Europe, from a range of specialisms, on the impact of untreated hyponatraemia and demonstrating the need to treat this condition.  They then had to ensure that Samsca was seen as the therapy of choice for the treatment of hyponatraemia secondary to SIADH.  Relationship building with key nephrologists and endocrinologists provided a real insight into clinicians’ educational need.  This in turn informed the development of the key components of the ‘Correcting the balance’ campaign during both the pre-launch and launch periods.


In August 2009 Otsuka was about to undertake the European launch of Samsca® (tolvaptan), a novel vasopressin antagonist for the treatment of adult patients with hyponatraemia secondary to Syndrome of Inappropriate Anti-Diuretic Hormone secretion (SIADH). Samsca directly targets the mechanism of SIADH, blocking the action of vasopressin and allowing the body to excrete water without excreting electrolytes, significantly improving hyponatraemia. Despite being the most common electrolyte disorder in hospitalised patients (up to 30 per cent), hyponatraemia was inadequately understood by physicians, often undiagnosed and undertreated. It had limited and suboptimal treatment options, no published treatment guidelines and a complex pathophysiology, as well as falling within no clear specialism for treatment. With a campaign to suit the needs of all the European affiliates, it was paramount to get the message across that Samsca ‘corrected the balance’ of sodium and water, and that it worked by targeting the actual underlying mechanism of SIADH.


ApotheCom (part of Huntsworth Health) stepped up to the challenge with a pre-launch pan-European medical education programme focused on mapping and targeting key opinion leaders (KOLs) with expertise in hyponatraemia and SIADH, as well as their own specialisms. Fundamental to Samsca’s success, this exercise gave ApotheCom an in-depth knowledge of the field, the barriers facing the launch of Samsca and how to overcome them. This led to the identification of three objectives that were critical for success. These were to educate clinicians across Europe on the impact of untreated hyponatraemia, to demonstrate the need to treat this condition and to ensure Samsca was seen as the therapy of choice.

Programme components included an innovative approach to multidisciplinary advisory boards, the development and publication of a treatment algorithm, an audit at Hope Hospital, Manchester, a value dossier and KOL film interviews. Two key meetings providing the best platform to demonstrate the need to treat hyponatraemia were identified. A symposium was held at the European Congress of Endocrinology (ECE) 2009 titled ‘Hyponatraemia: Symptoms and treatment options’ and a Meet the Experts session focusing on the clinical significance of managing hyponatraemia took place at the World Congress of Nephrology 2009. The meetings were attended by 850 delegates with 84 per cent of them rating them as very good or exceptional. These congress activities continued through 2010 and included well attended and innovative symposia at the ECE, European Renal Association – European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA) Congress and the European Neuro-Endocrine Association Congress.


The principles and knowledge gained pre-launch were used throughout the launch of Samsca, reinforcing the key message of the need-to-treat, the lack of effective treatment options and Samsca’s novel mode of action and efficacy. By reiterating these messages though a clinical slide resource, the treatment algorithm and publications, a seamless flow from pre-launch to launch communications was achieved. Post-launch tracking after 18 months of activity confirmed the success of the programme, with aided awareness of Samsca doubling.

Client verdict

“I have found the company adds real value and insight to developing a great communication programme that leads to results on the ground and to increased awareness. What I like about them is that they are always in step with you or one step ahead.”

Frankie Neal, Marketing Director, Specialty Products, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Europe Ltd

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