Boston, MA — Following an accelerated FDA approval late last year, Novo Nordisk’s newest diabetes medication, Rybelsus, seemed all set for an early 2020 launch. Early 2020, of course, was a time nobody could adequately plan for. But even amid the pandemic and the unprecedented challenges it’s brought, Novo Nordisk remained committed to accessing the patients and providers who stand to benefit the most from Rybelsus, adjusting their launch to provide support customized for the time of COVID. 

Novo Nordisk’s annual lecture series is typically a live, two-day event—this year, they report that virtualizing the event went smoothly, and it even garnered a larger audience of physicians than normal. But some time into the pandemic, in March and April, they knew they needed to do more, given the plunging numbers of routine doctor’s appointments. Accordingly, they implemented a virtual copay and patient education program, which allowed for seamless remote signup via text. Through the program, each patient gets access to a certified diabetes educator who can also address questions about diabetes and COVID-19. 

This is particularly important for a diabetes drug, given the vulnerability of this patient population to COVID. As Ed Cinca, VP of Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 portfolio, told MM&M, “We brought forward more education about the unfortunate reality that many of these patients are suffering at disproportionate numbers relative to the general population. We want to make sure physicians are aware that patients who are uncontrolled in diabetes are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19 and make educational resources available to them.”

Cinca went on to explain that the differing needs of doctors in different parts of the country are particularly pronounced during COVID. So, Novo Nordisk was careful to customize its engagements with HCPs and patients based on regional needs. They were especially wary of overwhelming people with too much information during a time when people are over-burdened and uncertain about the future. “For us,” he said, “it has been a recognition of being on the customer’s agenda and better understanding where your customer is coming from.”

Across therapeutic areas, life sciences leaders are issuing bespoke support for their audiences through this time of continued unknowns. The implications of COVID-19 for people with comorbidities like diabetes, lung and heart disease, and cancer are uniquely important. Both providers and patients need up-to-date information on what kinds of appointments need to be in person as opposed to via telemedicine, which symptoms to be most mindful of, and individual best practices for total healthcare management through the end of this virus.  

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.  

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