Down with Rybelsus! No, this isn’t a line from “1984,” but rather the new message from Novo Nordisk for its first Rybelsus ad of 2022.
One of the biggest issues facing new medicines like Rybelsus, which was approved by the FDA in 2020 to help lower blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes patients, is that doctors often don’t like to switch their patients to new meds.
This new ad appears to be zeroing in on that issue. Several Type 2 diabetes patients talk about their sugar levels—measured as A1C—and how they needed to be lower. We cut in the first scene to a doctor saying his patient’s sugar levels “are down, thanks to Rybelsus.”
With a very upbeat jingle—“A1C, down with Rybelsus”—the middle of the TV spot gets to the meat of the message. “Once-daily Rybelsus showed in a clinical trial that it significantly lowered A1C better than a leading branded pill,” the narrator says.
Pharma companies don’t typically target competitors in their ads or directly state that patients should switch to their drugs, but Novo is letting viewers connect the dots to come to that conclusion.
The switching-focused ad also dovetails with a comments from Novo’s CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, who said in a recent interview with Fierce Pharma that doctors were generally “hesitant about changing prescriptions” for stable diabetes patients. It looks as if the marketing department has made that issue front and center of this new ad campaign.
Rybelsus’ launch, like a lot of new rollouts, has suffered from the COVID environment, but its sales still jumped 168% in 2021 compared to 2020, bringing home 4.8 billion Danish krone ($720 million)—and it could breach blockbuster status this year.
The latest ad also sees Novo switch it up from the animation-led ads it originally aired for the drug, the first one forced from live to animation as COVID restrictions interfered with live filming.
The older animated ads had predominately focused on “waking up possible’”or certain variations of that theme, which plugged the drug’s ability to help people lose weight and live their lives to the fullest.
Novo has so far spent $4.2 million on the Down with Rybelsus ad in March, according to the real-time ad trackers at iSpot.tv.
Rybelsus racked up pharma’s second-largest drug ad spend in 2021, coming in second to Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent, with Novo spending $307 million on all ad campaigns for the med in its first full commercial year, massively up from the $103 million it spent in 2020.
It does sit within a big field of new competing Type 2 diabetes drugs, including Eli Lilly’s injected Trulicity and its Boehringer-partnered Jardiance, as well as J&J’s Invokana.
But Rybelsus also a unique selling point, being the only GLP-1 diabetes medicine sold as an oral therapy, and therefore easier to administer for patients.