Brands that Grew their Category

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Case Studies of Brands that Grew Their Category

Abbvie (Humira), AstraZeneca (Crestor), Amgen (Enbrel), Janssen Biotech (Remicade) and Genentech (Rituxan) are dominant pharmaceutical companies that expanded their blockbuster drugs' uses to include new categories of disease.

Below you will find a deep dive of my findings and methodology.


I was able to compile 5 case studies for this research, however, I found that determining market share/dominance for each of the 5 drugs was out of scope for a single request. This is because each drug is indicated for a different disease, which translates to different markets, e.g. Humira for arthritis, Crestor for cholesterol, Enbrel for psoriasis, etc. Therefore, I used other sources such as industry reports and rankings to determine the top-performing drugs by sales.

I also found that advertising was impossible to isolate from my findings, as all pharmaceutical companies employ advertising as well as educational campaigns to sell their pharmaceutical products. Nevertheless, I researched and included educational campaigns for each orphan drug whenever possible. Finally, while each pharmaceutical company develops different pipelines for different diseases, I focused on each blockbuster drug's prior as well as orphan indications that expanded their categories. Please continue below to see the results of my research.


According to a 2017 Benzinga report, seven out of the top 10 best-selling drugs in 2015 hold an orphan drug status for treatment of a rare disease. However, several of these blockbuster orphan drugs were first marketed for other therapy areas. One of these is Humira, the top gross-selling drug in the world in 2016 ($8.4 billion in sales) according to the Verdict. It is used to treat a variety of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and Crohn's disease. Humira's maker Abbvie won orphan drug status for Humira in 2015 from the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), a rare skin disease.

In 2016, AbbVie launched an educational campaign online entitled "What's Your Sore Spot" to increase awareness of hidradenitis suppurativa disease. The campaign included a symptom checker and a patient-physician discussion guide regarding the disease. AbbVie's VP of global medical affair Dominik Hochli said that the campaign highlighted Abbvie and Humira's commitment to address the rare disease together with patients, doctors and advocates.


The BMJ reported in 2015 that AstraZeneca's blockbuster drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) was the most prescribed brand in the US in 2014, reaching $5.8 billion in sales. The drug is used to lower bad cholesterol such as low-density lipoprotein and to increase levels of good cholesterol such as high-density lipoprotein. In 2016, Crestor won an FDA orphan designation for use in children with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH), a rare condition characterized by ultra high levels of cholesterol from birth.

While I did not find a dedicated educational campaign for Crestor and HoFH, I found that AstraZeneca launched the the educational initiative "Make Your Move Across America" in 2015. The campaign aimed to increase cholesterol education through public events as well as educational materials including patient infographics, brochures, and an application for cholesterol management. The campaign also offered free lipid screenings across various cities in the US.


Benzinga reported in 2017 that in 2015, Amgen's Enbrel raked in $5.10 billion in sales, making it the third top-selling drug that year. The drug is used to treat 5 chronic disease including severe psoriasis. Enbrel also received orphan designation in 1998 to 1999 for therapeutic areas including the rare condition polyarticular-course juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

In 2016, Amgen reported that the FDA has expanded Enbrel's use to include treatment of children with chronic plaque psoriasis. According to the company, this makes the drug the first and only systemic therapy for this indication.

Though Amgen has not yet launched a campaign for this specific disease, I found that the company has already conducted earlier campaigns around psoriasis in general. Pharma Marketing News reported in 2011 that professional golfer Phil Mickelson has become the spokesperson for Enbrel after being treated with the drug for psoriatic arthritis. Amgen and Pfizer featured Mickelson in TV ads, publications including Arthritis Today, and the Enbrel website. The article also noted that Mickelson featured in a non-branded disease awareness campaign "On Course with Phil" launched by Amgen and Pfizer in 2011.


Benzinga reported that Janssen Biotech's Remicade brought in $4.5 billion in sales in 2015, making it the fifth top-selling drug that year. Remicade is indicated for treatment of Crohn's disease and arthritis among others. In 2011, the FDA approved Remicade as the first biologic therapy for children with ulcerative colitis.

In 2012, MM&M reported that Janssen partnered with American Idol star Casey Abrams to promote Remicade in a crowd content contest together with the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). The contest was part of Janssen Biotech's IBD Icons campaign.


Benzinga reported that Genentech's Rituxan placed 7th in the 2015 list of top-selling drugs with $3.91 billion in sales. Rituxan is mainly indicated for rheumatoid arthritis but has won FDA orphan drug designation in 2015 for the treatment of pemphigus vulgaris, a rare autoimmune skin disease. In 2017, the FDA also granted Breakthrough Therapy designation for the drug for the same indication.

Though I found several campaigns by Genentech, I did not find a branded campaign that focused on Rituxan for this disease and other indications. However, Rituxan's efficacy in pemphigus vulgaris has been featured by the International Pemphigus and Pemphigoid Foundation (IPPF) as well as various industry publications.


To wrap it up, the following dominant pharmaceutical companies expanded their blockbuster drugs' uses to include new categories of disease: Abbvie (Humira), AstraZeneca (Crestor), Amgen (Enbrel), Janssen Biotech (Remicade) and Genentech (Rituxan).