Sleepless nights, especially if you have young children or are constantly worried about a seemingly endless pandemic, are nothing new to most people, but chronic insomnia stealing your ability to sleep takes this to another level.
While the FDA is reviewing its insomnia drug daridorexant, Idorsia kicks off its early awareness campaign and launches a new alliance for sleep to promote education and research on a condition that often goes undiagnosed and can seriously affect quality of life.
The new alliance is chaired by Ruth Benca, MD, Ph.D., Chair of the Wake Forest School of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, and Andrew Krystal, MD, Ray and Dagmar Dolby, Distinguished Professor and Vice-Chair of Research at the Department of Psychiatry from the University of California, San Francisco’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences.
The group below them consists of health professionals from a range of specialties including insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorder, integrative medicine, and more. They recently met to discuss the priorities for the first year, including a full impact assessment and understanding of insomnia and work on new tools to “improve dialogue around sleep”.
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Benca sees sleep as the “third pillar of health” after diet and exercise, whereby chronic under-sleep increases the risk of a large number of serious illnesses. Getting this right, like diet and exercise, are vital to overall health and can help reduce future healthcare costs by averting illness-related illnesses.
Insomnia – characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and being extremely tired during the day – is often underdiagnosed and under-treated. Idorsia estimates that around 70% of people with persistent insomnia never seek medical help.
The condition can affect many aspects of people’s lives, including concentration, mood, and energy levels. In the long term, insomnia has been linked to serious health conditions such as psychiatric illness, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Idorsia told Fierce Pharma Marketing that the alliance aims to “fill data gaps on insomnia” while “deepening understanding of the number of sleep disorders and providing practical tools to address this important health problem”.
CONNECTED: Merck is stepping up marketing of Belsomra in hopes of sparking a sleepy insomnia market
The biotech company, a spin-out from the acquisition of Actelion by big pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, is currently awaiting potential FDA approval for its experimental insomnia drug daridorexant. A decision is expected in the coming months and a possible market launch in the first half of next year.
Last year, the drug passed a phase 3 study in patients with insomnia and linked the dual orexin receptor antagonist (DORA) to an improvement in daily output. Idorsia hopes to compete with the market share of Merck’s insomnia therapy Belsomra, which shares a mechanism of action with daridorexant and was, in fact, the first DORA to be launched.
However, sales for the Merck drug have been sluggish, grossing just $ 327 million in 2020, despite having been in the market for seven years. Eisai is more optimistic that its DORA – Dayvigo, which launched in the US last year – can hit blockbuster sales.
Merck has a long history of insomnia campaigns, one of which dates back to 2015 when the company ran unbranded TV commercials titled “Why So Awake” on national television, as well as in paid promotions on YouTube and in medical offices across the country. Print ads appeared in national weekly and monthly magazines, while digital marketing included a WhySoAwake website, Twitter page and hashtag, and a Sleep Guru mobile app with tips on healthy sleeping habits. The website is still active today.
What has hindered Belsomra’s sales is the extremely low cost of established, generic sleep aids, which has depressed the overall value of the sleep aids market. All branded drug companies, including Idorsia, hope that a growing new DORA drug market and new campaigns can help change the poor sales.