Alza Launches DTC Effort For Ditropan With Direct Response Print Ads

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Alza Corp., Palo Alto, CA, this week launched a direct response advertising campaign for Ditropan XL, a new prescription medication for people who have problems with bladder control.

The campaign targets women over 50, encouraging them to discuss the symptoms of overactive bladder with their doctors and to consider Ditropan XL. Alza has been marketing the product, which was approved last December and has been available in pharmacies since February, to targeted physicians for the past several months.

The direct-to-consumer campaign was launched with direct response print ads in the New York Times last week and in the July issues of several national magazines, including Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Prevention and Health Monitor. Direct response TV advertising kicks off after the July 4 weekend, with spots on major networks and cable channels, including Lifetime and A&E.

The advertising directs people to a toll-free phone number and to a Web site ( where they can obtain more information about the condition and the product.

The campaign is designed to coax people past the phobia of talking to their doctors about an embarrassing problem and to create awareness that treatment options are available.

"Overactive bladder is something a lot of people don't realize is a treatable condition," said Anneke Cole, a spokeswoman for Alza. "A lot of people think it is a natural part of aging, so I think a big part of the campaign is to educate consumers that overactive bladder is not a normal part of aging, that it is treatable and also educate them about what the symptoms are so that they can go in and talk with their physicians about the problem."

Alza received some help from a competitor in its effort to educate consumers about the condition when Pharmacia & Upjohn last year launched advertising supporting its treatment for overactive bladder, Detrol. That campaign began with educational messages that did not name the product, but did create some awareness about the availability of pharmaceutical treatments. The company recently switched to a branded campaign in which it names both the product and the condition for which it is prescribed.

"We think the efforts that Pharmacia & Upjohn have done will benefit us," Cole said. "This is a condition that affects 17 million people in the United States, and currently only about 10 percent of those are seeking treatment. There is a very large percentage of people who have not gone to their physicians or who have not yet talked openly about their symptoms."

Alza said its advertising emphasizes its points of differentiation from Detrol. Among those are the fact that Ditropan is the only once-a-day treatment - Detrol is taken twice per day - and that it performed much better than a placebo in reducing bladder accidents in a clinical study. The marketing materials also tout the relatively minor side effects, stating that only 7 percent of patients in a clinical trial discontinued using the product because of side effects.

In addition to the print ads and TV spots, Alza also is advertising the product through take-one leaflets that are being positioned near the adult diaper section of drugstores. A shelf talker states, "Before you pick a pack of pads… pick up this. Important information about overactive bladder." The leaflets encourage consumers to talk to their doctors about Ditropan XL.

Consumers who respond to the toll-free number in the print ad or the TV commercial will be sent a personalized letter thanking them for their interest and encouraging them to talk to their doctor about their condition, in addition to a brochure listing the symptoms of overactive bladder and describing the benefits of Ditropan XL.

Cole said that other than the fulfillment packages, there were no immediate plans to follow up to the database of names the company collects from its direct response marketing efforts. The company plans to mail a newsletter about overactive bladder to those consumers who request it, although the frequency of the mailing had not yet been determined, Cole said.

The consumer campaign, which was created by Rubin-Ehrenthal and Associates, New York, uses many of the same visual elements that were employed in the campaign targeting physicians, Cole said, including a picture of bowl of water on the verge of spilling.

"It was a visual that that people across the board responded very strongly to, and it became one of the stronger elements of the campaign," Cole said.

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