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Boehringer Ingelheim features Queen Latifah, Bernie Williams in new lung disease documentary

Actor and musician Queen Latifah and retired All-Star baseball player Bernie Williams have both lost parents to interstitial lung disease and both already serve as Boehringer Ingelheim spokespeople. And now, the two are helping the company premiere a new documentary about the condition.

The TV movie “Beyond Breathless”—which debuts Saturday at noon on the A&E channel—will feature the actor and ballplayer sharing their own stories, along with patients living with the disease, their loved ones, and healthcare professionals.

It’s the first documentary focused on ILD spotlighting the journey of those affected by the disease, Boehringer said in a news release. During the show, a new Boehringer commercial will debut. The hand-drawn animation ad encourages people to learn more about ILDs and refers to its website for more information.

“Our hope is that through ‘Beyond Breathless’ we can educate people about interstitial lung disease and encourage those experiencing symptoms to get an earlier and accurate diagnosis,” Al Masucci, VP of Boehringer’s ILD business unit, said.

Queen Latifah joined Boehringer’s “More than Scleroderma” campaign in August in a digital and social effort that included a video talking about her mother’s diagnosis and care. Her mother died of systemic sclerosis-associated interstitial lung disease two years ago.

That campaign was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic to rally behind rare-disease patients and families who may be feeling isolated, Masucci said when the campaign debuted.

Former New York Yankees star Williams, meanwhile, is a long-time Boehringer spokesperson who first joined the pharma in 2017 to raise awareness around lung disease. He’s been involved in several campaigns, including the “Breathless Blowout” bubble-blowing days at Minor League Baseball stadiums; a public service announcement alongside real patients; and, most recently, a songwriting contest. His father died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2001.

While Boehringer has run awareness TV ads and digital campaigns around ILD for several years, the documentary adds a new impact.

“The personal experiences of the patients, caregivers, loved ones and physicians facing ILD is center stage in this 30-minute documentary, having an impact that shorter form content and campaigns would not be able to deliver,” Masucci said. 

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) includes more than 200 lung disorders that can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, including systemic sclerosis-associated ILD and IPF.

While the new TV documentary is an awareness effort, Boehringer markets pulmonary fibrosis drug Ofev, which in March added an FDA nod to treat a range of chronic ILDs. Its first indication, granted in 2014, was for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.