- On January 2, Mannkind announced the termination of its licensing agreement for Afrezza (insulin human) for inhalation with Sanofi. Since then the company has taken numerous steps to shore up Afrezza's sales. With a new chief commercial officer, ad agency and specialist focus, Mannkind is essentially attempting a re-launch of Afrezza.
- The revised marketing strategy primarily pivots on refocusing sales efforts away from primary care physicians (PCPs) towards endocrinologists---who treat patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
- The new chief commercial officer, Michael Castagna, is an MBA from Wharton, where he also earned a pharmacy degree. In addition, he has experience at Amgen and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). Castagna hired the new agency, precisioneffect.
The first step taken by the new agency reorients Mannkind's approach to the diabetes care market. While Sanofi's decision to target PCPs provided greater reach, gaining traction with endocrinologists could help Mannkind get Afrezza off the ground.
As specialists, endocrinologists are treating a broader group of individuals with diabetes and also are more likely to have the expertise to determine the merits of ramping up usage of a new product. Assuming that their experience is positive, they can then become key opinion leaders who share their insights with PCPs at various meetings and conferences.
Mannkind also is looking at launching a DTC campaign. For now, Mannkind is maintaining a consumer website with a simple message: "Afrezza, the mealtime insulin you breathe in." The website features that message in various iterations, and features short videos of people using insulin, with simple captioned instructions: "Inhale, hold breath, discard cartridge."
Still, "I don't think telling people who are on insulin, 'Hey, try this' is going to work," Castagna said. "I know people would say it's a no-brainer -- it's inhaled versus an injection -- but you've got to have that emotional connection that people are dealing with this disease every single day," he told Fierce Pharma Marketing.
Under his watch, Mannkind will deploy a team of sales people, marketing experts and diabetes educators, who will bring the message to physicians and consumers, with the goal of making that emotional connection.