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Eli Lilly's Ladies' Drug Campaign: Kind of Strange TV Ad?

Monday, 12 May 2008 | 1:51 PM ET
Evista
Source: lilly.se
Evista

So, I admit I watched a lot of television last night and saw a commercial for a relatively new osteoporosis-breast cancer prevention combo drug from Eli Lilly called Evista. Actually, I saw it three times.

And I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something about it that just doesn't sit right. Just as Congress is doing some sabre rattling over direct-to-consumer drug advertising, Lilly debuted the campaign yesterday for the osteoporosis drug which the Food and Drug Administration approved last September as a breast cancer preventative as well. Lilly's trying to get the word out about the unique two-in-one profile of the pill.

The commercial features a series of images of menopausal-age (or are they post-menopausal?) women wearing nothing but towels or sheets held by their clutched hands as they stand in a stark, mostly white setting with water cascading here and there. It looks like it could be some kind of fancy spa. Some appear to be holding up the covering, others look like they're cupping a single breast or both breasts. A few of the women have just a hint of a smile. Most look rather blank as the voiceover announcer extols the drug's virtues and side effects including a high-level safety warning about blood clots and stroke.

What was slightly unsettling about the commercial was how so many of the women looked as if they had just been plucked straight from a Botox commercial (note the lack of lines on their foreheads) and handed a towel and told to stand still. On many of the women's faces it appeared there was no other option--at least until the Botox wears off. The theme is also carried over to the Evista web site.

Evista Spot
Evista commercial, with CNBC's Mike Huckman

Evista spokesperson Lee Lange says the company is also running new print ads starting this week in targeted publications like Time magazine. Lange says they focus-grouped the campaign with "professional and consumer audiences." I wonder what kind of feedback they got. Lange says the FDA also signed off on the commercial which was done by Grey Worldwide--part of the WPP Group .

Lange says the aim was to make the campaign "responsible and informative" and "to make sure it really spoke to" post-menopausal women. "We wanted them to identify and see themselves," Lange told me over the phone. Do you think they got it right? Take the poll and email me at Pharma@cnbc.com.

Lilly sold about a billion dollars worth of Evista last year. But first-quarter sales of the drug were down one percent from the same period last year.

In her weekly research note to clients on prescription trends, Deutsche Bank's Barbara Ryan writes, "We do not believe that Evista will see much incremental growth from the label expansion for breast cancer risk reduction (in part because of the addition of a boxed warning to the label)." The boxed warning is about the risk of blood clots and stroke.

DB owns at least one percent of LLY, makes a market in the stock, has banked the drugmaker and wants to do it some more.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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