How Orexigen Is Changing the Weight-loss Conversation

Raise your hand if you’ve struggled to lose weight and keep it off. For many people, this is a familiar struggle—one filled with emotions like frustration and failure. Many weight loss patients can feel trapped on a roller coaster of ups and downs as they try different diet and exercise plans that don’t work or cannot be maintained to keep the weight off. Patients often blame themselves for having a lack of willpower or discipline to lose weight, not realizing that diet and exercise alone may not be enough.

That’s where we come in. We want patients to know that the brain plays an important role in weight loss.

We are Orexigen Therapeutics Inc, the creators of Contrave® (naltrexone HCl/bupropion HCl), an FDA-approved weight-loss medicine for adults who are overweight or struggle with obesity (please see full indication below). Our mission is to help improve the health and lives of patients struggling to lose weight.

There is still a social stigma affecting patients who struggle with their weight and still a belief that weight issues are due to lifestyle choices. Patients may be embarrassed or hesitant to approach a healthcare practitioner (HCP). They may not know their brain plays a role in the weight-loss process, so they don’t talk openly about their struggle and they don’t seek treatment options, such as adding a medicine to their diet and exercise regimen.

We want to help patients and HCPs have engaging and motivating discussions. Typical weight loss conversations may center around negative health impacts of being overweight and this can create fear and guilt, leaving patients with feelings of hopelessness. We are changing the conversation from why you should lose weight to why you struggle to lose weight. This important distinction, we believe, helps alleviate frustration for patients which can help them stay motivated and committed to a complete regimen.

We launched a dynamic direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising campaign for Contrave to help patients understand the connection between weight loss and two specific areas of the brain that cause hunger and cravings. (Other areas of the brain may be involved). We want patients to engage HCPs in discussing how diet and exercise may not be enough and to normalize adding a medicine to their regimen.  

Our target audience – the strength of women

Our primary focus is to empower women to start this conversation. Over 80% of the current market being treated is women.[i] When it comes to their health, women take action faster than men, and women can exert an important influence on men’s healthcare decisions. What’s more, women are already being influenced by diet-and exercise-focused advertising, which can overpromise and create false hope about the impact of diet and exercise alone. We believe women are in a position to lead the change in conversation that needs to occur in weight loss.

The core campaign values

We built the campaign around the following three core values that would empower women to take action: efficacy, reasons to believe, and trust. Efficacy is supported by multiple studies, showing that Contrave added to diet and exercise yields meaningful clinical results. We also include safety information and our boxed warning in all of our advertising. Reasons to believe focused on how Contrave is believed to work on the hypothalamus (hunger center) to reduce hunger and the mesolimbic reward system to help control cravings. The exact neurochemical effects of Contrave leading to weight loss are not fully understood. Finally, trust leverages facts that Contrave is FDA-approved and is the number one prescribed weight loss brand.

The audience research

We started with extensive qualitative and quantitative research with our target audience. We learned that controlling both hunger and cravings is important to women; however, controlling cravings, in particular, is most important. Women articulate universal truths such as, “I can be good all day; but at night, I reach for ice cream” or “It’s hard to resist my kid’s french fries and eat my salad instead.”

That’s how our creative concept was born. Our campaign explains how two important areas of the brain cause hunger and cravings and underscores how Contrave is believed to work on these two areas.

The creative

We wanted our campaign to have stopping power. We knew that our TV ad, the centerpiece of the campaign, had to be different and make patients stop and think differently about weight loss.

Our visually intriguing ad features real women who physically arrange themselves to simulate a depiction of the human brain. In the ads, women call out their actual cravings (e.g., ice cream, french fries) bringing to life their struggle with hunger and cravings. We wanted our ad to be fun, but not funny, and serious, but not fearful. We want to reassure women struggling with weight loss that it isn’t their fault, empowering them to have a discussion with an HCP.

The key micro-moments

At times patients can be inspired to act by small, consequential micro-moments. These trigger moments may include trying on clothes and feeling depressed when something doesn’t fit or looking at selfies and feeling they don’t even recognize themselves. In our mobile world, consumers want to immediately learn more information or make immediate purchases during these micro-moments. So, we sought to capture these moments with a 360-degree, integrated campaign launched at the beginning of weight-loss season when patients are at the height of their motivation to lose weight.

Our ongoing campaign spans television (e.g., This Is Us, The Today Show, Project Runway), magazines (e.g., Women’s Day, The Oprah Magazine, People), digital marketing, and social media. Plus, we created an easy-to-navigate website with patient support tools, including a free smart scale, discussion guide, doctor locator, and telemedicine service. The “Get Contrave Now” telemedicine pilot in Texas and California provides online doctor consults and the convenience and privacy of home delivery. Get Contrave Now represents the first and only prescription weight-loss medicine to be offered via telemedicine.

Campaign results

Our campaign started strong and the momentum continues to build. So far the number of visits to have tripled versus the same period last year. Our find-a-doctor tool has been accessed over 130,000 times, signaling that patients are activated to discuss weight loss with a healthcare professional. Followers of our Contrave Facebook page are increasing every week. We are changing the way patients are approaching their weight loss regimen, as evidenced by the sharp increase in prescription volumes from the moment the campaign started. Contrave remains the number one prescribed weight loss brand, and that lead continues to grow.

Through our one-of-a kind campaign, we want women to understand that diet and exercise alone may not be enough and empower them to talk to an HCP about two areas of the brain and adding Contrave to their weight loss regimen.

About the author:

Salma Jutt is the VP of US Marketing for Orexigen Therapeutics. Jutt and her team are responsible for leading the Contrave marketing strategy to activate and support consumers and physicians via direct-to-consumer advertising, in office promotion and other innovative strategies. Jutt is a life sciences leader with 20 years of commercial experience at companies including Allergan and Boehringer Ingelheim.


CONTRAVE (naltrexone HCI/bupropion HCl) is a prescription weight-loss medicine that may help adults with obesity (BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2), or who are overweight (BMI greater than or equal to 27 kg/m2) with at least one weight-related medical condition, lose weight and keep the weight off. CONTRAVE should be used along with diet and exercise.

Please visit to see full prescribing information and medication guide for CONTRAVE.

[1] IMS Prescription Data

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