Asthma and COPD Marketing

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Asthma and COPD Marketing - Part 1 (GSK)

GSK is employing both traditional and digital marketing mediums to market its asthma and COPD branded drugs. Some marketing approaches used to market its asthma and COPD branded drugs include digital innovation, thought leadership, direct-to-consumer marketing, and strategic partnerships.


GSK has formed three major strategic partnerships for marketing its asthma and COPD branded drugs.

GSK has partnered with COPD Foundation, Jvion and Geisinger. This joint venture will use an innovative approach that leverages cognitive machine learning and COPD patient data. It will allow GSK to identify COPD patients at risk of hospitalization, who have the highest probability for benefiting from new medications.

GSK has expanded its partnership with Propeller Health primarily to promote its COPD branded drugs. With this deal, GSK will be able to tailor their care management packages to better suite the needs of patients with respiratory conditions. It will be made possible thanks to Propeller Health's innovative sensor technology.

GSK is also partnering with physicians and key players, to generate data sets around the cost burden of COPD and the impact of those cost drivers. GSK is doing this to strengthen its market position as they plan to launch up to 10 new respiratory drugs in the next five or six years.


GSK has launched an asthma awareness campaign to make people aware of this chronic disease and market its COPD branded drugs. With this campaign, GSK will deliver a presentation, through its apprentices, to local sports club coaches on how to recognize the symptoms of asthma. Serving as a direct-to-consumer marketing approach, GSK would guide people on what to do if someone is having an asthma attack. Accompanying apprentices during this campaign, GSK would also make a qualified nurse available to answer medical questions consumers may have.

Also, in a strategic shift, GSK launched a 'Volume to Value' campaign, by financing an extensive unbranded DTC effort in the asthma space on TV, in print, and online ( This marketing approach is aimed at directly reaching consumers where they may be.


GSK is confirmed to have consistently remained active in the digital space. In recent developments, GSK is looking to apply artificial intelligence to drug discover, targeting COPD adherence with sensor technology, and rolling out its first medical mobile app.

With its mobile app, GSK has launched an innovation that will help asthma patients to manage their conditions better. This would be achieved by tracking potential triggers, syncing exercise data from other devices, and allowing patients to share their data with their doctors. This digital innovation closes the marketing loop between GSK and consumers, helping the company to market its asthma and COPD drugs.

It is interesting to note that, GSK's expanded partnership with Propeller Health, which would roll out its sensor technology, as well as the joint-venture with COPD Foundation, which is targeted at applying artificial intelligence to drug discover, are also digital innovations aimed at marketing its asthma and COPD branded drugs.


By going into strategic partnerships, launching massive asthma awareness campaigns and building an innovative mobile app, GSK has maintained thought-leadership both with direct consumers and key players.

However, GSK has ensured its thought-leadership position is maintained by creating relevant publications aimed at helping patients manage COPD. A notable example is a publication explaining 10 things about living with COPD to patients.

Having spent $102 Million on direct-to-consumer marketing in 2017, and projected to do same in 2018/2019, GSK will hope to maintain their thought-leadership position directly with consumers.


GSK is marketing their asthma and COPD branded products using both traditional and digital marketing approaches.

While they have been projected to maintain their $102 Million direct-to-consumer marketing spend in 2018/2019, they are also employing digital innovation, thought-leadership, and strategic partnerships to market their asthma and COPD branded drugs.
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Asthma and COPD Marketing - Part 2 (Merck)

Merck uses specific guidelines for marketing all of their branded drug products, including their asthma and COPD products. This includes adherence to strict direct-to-customer (DTC) advertising guidelines in coherence with the FDA, as well as a specific timeline for releasing marketing videos about branded products to the public broadcasting system. As a result, Merck markets and informs healthcare personnel about their products prior to releasing information to the public. Below you will find a breakdown of the major marketing strategies that are employed by Merck for their asthma and COPD branded drug products, as well as an example of how these strategies were used on a specific product - Dulera - by Merck.

DTC Advertising

As a main goal, Merck focuses their efforts on increasing the number of patients that are aware of conditions and associated symptoms, so as to make them better informed on their medical positions and the ways available to get help. As of 2008, Merck first releases information regarding a newly approved drug to health care professionals, whether through product websites or representatives that can explain the product directly. Six months later, Merck sends in their DTC advertising campaigns to the FDA for approval. Any changes suggested or required by the FDA are completed before releasing to the public for marketing. Once DTC advertising has been approved by the FDA, Merck ensures that the following information is included in every campaign:

- Appropriate "taste and tone"
- Relevant Patient Assistance Programs (PAP) - at the very least, this means providing an 800 number to call for questions
- If celebrities are included, they must have the condition and use the product being advertised

Additionally, Merck also completes consumer market research prior to public release to understand the expected success of the material after broadcast. These DTC advertising guidelines include marketing campaigns such as print material, phone numbers, websites, television ads, and more, all of which are used to provide information to patients.

Prescribing Information

In addition to all DTC advertising campaigns that Merck releases, one of the other requirements to accompany these campaigns is the release of patient education materials. On Merck's website, that provide links to PDFs containing "Prescribing Information" for every single branded drug product that they market, including their asthma and COPD products. Where necessary, Prescribing Information is further broken down into "with dose indicator" and "without dose indicator" for their products. The information that is provided on each of these sheets, as applicable, is as follows:

Although this information often proves more helpful for health care professionals than for patients, upon approval of DTC advertising campaigns from the FDA, it is required by law that the information is available to the public whenever the drug is available for use.

Patient Product Information

Patient Product Information pages are another form of patient education materials that are required by law to be publicly available once a drug has been approved by the FDA and is being marketed by Merck. This information is provided on Merck's website, and where necessary, Patient Product Information is further broken down into "with dose indicator" and "without dose indicator" for their products. The information that is provided on each of these sheets, as applicable, is as follows, where "X" is the drug being considered:
- Who should not use "X?"
- What should I tell my doctor before and during treatment with "X?"
- Before you use "X," tell your healthcare provider if you...
- What are the possible side effects of "X?"
- The most common side effects of "X" include...
- Generation information about the safe and effective use of "X"
- What are the ingredients in "X?"

Example: Dulera

In 2013, Merck began marketing Dulera, an aerosol inhaler, to patients in the United States. This means that the marketing campaign first went through the process of being approved by the FDA, and information regarding Dulera was also distributed to health care professionals prior to being released to the general public. Two major commercials were used during this time to market Dulera to patients. Each commercial included the following information:

- Symptoms associated with the illness that Dulera can cure
- Study results of Dulera
- Risks associated with using Dulera
- Who should not use Dulera
- A number to call with questions about Dulera
- The link to Dulera's web page

In addition to the digitally broadcast commercials, Merck also released two different print brochures/pamphlets that summed provided more detailed information regarding Dulera. The link that is provided to Dulera's own web page in both the commercials and the brochures contains additional information that Merck uses to advertise this drug, by properly informing prospective patients. The information on Dulera's web page includes:

- FAQs
- Special offers and more information
- Resources

The link for "Medication Guide" links back to the Patient Product Information page for Dulera, just as the link for "Prescribing Information" refers back to the specific page released by Merck. l As a result of these marketing methods combined, Merck's Dulera produced around $412 million in revenue in 2016 in the U.S. and ranked 15th in respiratory products.


The process that Merck follows for marketing their products to patients and health care professionals follows the same general process regardless of product type. Prescribing and patient product information are always provided online whenever Merck begins to market a product to patients, whether that be through digital, print, or consumer market research methods. Dulera is a prime example of how Merck went through the process of getting their marketing campaign approved by the FDA, and then moving forward to provide consumers with all pertinent information across every marketing method that they utilized.
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Asthma and COPD Marketing - Part 3 (Boehringer Ingelheim)

Boehringer Ingelheim employs a multifaceted marketing strategy for their Asthma and COPD branded product, Respimat. Examples of marketing approaches the company has used include online and print advertisements, television advertisements, filming a documentary, and research facilitation for those studies designed to test Respimat formulations. One particularly noteworthy campaign was titled Think. Act. Breathe. It was designed to raise asthma and COPD awareness, and utilized social media to allow users to market for them through hashtags, competitions, and social shares.

Below you will find our overview of the marketing approaches used by Boehringer Ingelheim to market Respimat, which combats Asthma and COPD.

Think. act. breathe.

Prior to detailing the results of our research, we would like to note first that we initiated our search by establishing what products Boehringer Ingelheim offers for the treatment of asthma and COPD. We found that all such products were part of the company's Respimat line, including Spiolto Respimat and Spiriva Respimat. For this reason, we have elected to refer to the asthma and COPD line collectively as Respimat.

Boehringer Ingelheim's Think. Act. Breathe. campaign can be initially found through the company's Asthma products page. A user can click on the link for the campaign and be led to the dedicated Think. Act. Breathe. site, which is engaging and educational. From the landing page of the campaign, a user has a range of activities available, all designed to raise awareness and encourage treatment for asthma. These include a survey, a blog navigation tool, a video, and the link to the information page for a 2016 Instagram competition. The website states, "Every couple of months we will host a new competition asking you to share your motivating moments for a chance to win €200 worth of Amazon vouchers and help inspire others living with asthma." Those who were interested in participating were directed to upload a photo or video of them not stopping with asthma, then use the hashtag supplied by Boehringer Ingelheim.

The Think. Act. Breathe. website also includes the campaign's social links. The Instagram page has not been active since December 2017, but looking through the history of posts to that site demonstrates it was quite active. The Facebook page link is broken. However, a search of Facebook does lead to a community page which, according to that site, is affiliated with the campaign.

Although this campaign appears to be inactive, it does demonstrate the use of inbound marketing techniques. However, as we demonstrate next, Boehringer Ingelheim also employs traditional, outbound marketing as well.

The Grip of asthma TV commercial

In this commercial, Boehringer Ingelheim depicts the asthma sufferer as being clasped around the chest by a large bear. The afflicted individual engages in normal daily activities, while the bear remains a constant, constricting companion. This changes when the individual receives treatment, resulting in a dejected bear following along behind its former victim. This imagery is an effective metaphor for the daily burden experienced by a person with insufficiently treated asthma. The commercial began running digitally first in 2016. Print advertisements followed in 2017. The television commercial aired for the first time in August 2017.

Social Media

Boehringer Ingelheim has used several social media platforms during more than just the Think. Act. Breathe. campaign. For example, the company's page on Twitter and Facebook are often used for marketing purposes. The company demonstrates particular facility with Pinterest, noteworthy simply because that social media platform's popularity does not compare with platforms like Facebook and Instagram. They have utilized Pinterest for contests and other marketing for Respimat targeting both asthma and COPD.

Medical journal publications

Some may not view publications in medical journals as a marketing path, but in the case of pharmaceuticals, such publications would absolutely qualify as marketing. In this article, authors discuss the development of the Respimat line, claiming it was developed through "patient-centered innovation." Such a depiction would appeal to those medical practitioners deciding what medications to prescribe to their patients.

Documentary creation

Boehringer Ingelheim produced a documentary to raise awareness and understanding of COPD, while simultaneously creating brand recognition and product awareness of the Respimat line of medications. This echoes the theme of educational marketing that has touched many marketing approaches utilized by Boehringer Ingelheim.


Boehringer Ingelheim has utilized a range of inbound and outbound marketing approaches in their attempt to raise awareness of the seriousness of asthma and COPD and simultaneously raise awareness of their Respimat medications targeted at these illnesses. These marketing approaches include contests on Instagram and Pinterest, television commercials and print ads, as well as journal publications and documentary production.

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From Part 03