- Gilead is launching a TV advertising campaign for the preventive use of its HIV drug Descovy, a successor to the biotech's top-selling Truvada medicine. Like Truvada, Descovy is for the treatment of HIV infections as well as for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
- The ad, which according to marketing analytics provider iSpot.tv has aired about 2,100 times since its debut, implores viewers to "step up, PrEP up" with Descovy and mentions it's the latest medication from the makers of Truvada.
- Per an agreement between Gilead and Teva, the generic maker can launch a copycat version of Truvada in the U.S. beginning on Sept. 30, 2020.
Gilead is pouring resources into Descovy before Truvada loses patent protection later this year. The stakes are high: Truvada continues to be an important medicine for Gilead, bringing in sales of just over $2.8 billion last year.
The company linked Descovy to Truvada in the ad because "prevention is often associated really heavily with Truvada," Gilead executive Chris Freeman told FiercePharma, which earlier reported on the campaign.
The ad also seeks to target "harder-to-reach" populations that might be candidates for treatment, Freeman told FiercePharma. The 90-second spot features a variety of people talking about the need for prevention but also notes the medicine hasn't been studied in people assigned female at birth.
Descovy's approval was backed by data from a large study called DISCOVER, which independent experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration said provided evidence of the drug's safety and efficacy.
More controversial was whether an OK should extend to cisgender women. The regulator opted against clearing the drug for use in that population in its approval decision last October.
So far, Gilead has had success moving patients from Truvada over to Descovy. About 27% of people on PrEP are currently taking the newer drug, and Gilead expects that number to rise to between 40% and 45% by the fourth quarter of this year, according to a recent earnings presentation.
But the company's work in the PrEP has also stirred up controversy. Last year, the U.S. government accused Gilead of illegally profiting from taxpayer-funded HIV research, saying work done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was critical in establishing the PrEP use of Gilead's medicines.
Gilead has also come under fire for the cost of its treatments. Truvada's price tag is now about $1,800 a month, more than twice its cost in 2004. Gilead sells Descovy at a similar price point but contends the successor medicine is a safer alternative. Descovy combines a new version of tenofovir with emtricitabine, which is also an active ingredient in Truvada.