Brand Perception Series

October 2009

Brand Perceptions in Multiple Sclerosis

Report Authors
Amanda Puffer, M.Sc.


The U.S. multiple sclerosis (MS) market topped $4.7 billion in 2008, bolstered by sales of disease-modifying biologic agents that carry a high price tag but are in high demand owing to their effect on disability and the rate of relapse for MS patients. The market leaders, Biogen Idec’s Avonex and Teva’s Copaxone, accounted for more than 60% of sales in 2008, and they are firmly entrenched as early-line treatment options for patient with mild or moderate disease. However, highly anticipated oral disease-modifying agents, including Merck Serono/EMD Serono’s oral cladribine and Novartis/Mitsubishi Tanabe’s FTY-720 (fingolimod), are expected to launch in the next two years. It is expected that these agents will alter neurologists’ prescribing habits and the requests of the highly educated and informed MS patient population. As neurologists shift prescribing of currently available agents and additional new agents enter the market, brand teams, marketers, and sales teams should know the attributes that drive brand perception and messages that resonate with both consumers and physicians to manage and grow their MS brands.

The Brand Perception Series presents a comprehensive view of the current brand landscape using insight from 101 surveyed neurologists and 253 surveyed patients. This series examines the factors that drive brand perception and message resonance to help teams build targeted campaigns that achieve maximum return.

Questions Answered in This Report:

  *   Brand Perception

- Surveyed patients who currently take or have previously taken Avonex have a low overall perception of the brand, ranking it fifth overall among five MS brands in our survey. What factors drive patients’ negative perception of Biogen Idec’s Avonex? Where can the brand improve its perception among the patient population? How does neurologists’ perception of Avonex compare with that of patients?

- Survey data indicate that neurologists perceive Merck Serono/Pfizer’s Rebif and Bayer HealthCare’s Betaseron similarly across the most important drug attributes and that these physicians use a second tier of attributes to differentiate the brands. What specific attributes differentiate Rebif and Betaseron? What is the advantage of each agent in the minds of neurologists?

- Surveyed neurologists who currently prescribe Copaxone are more loyal to the brand than other MS brands despite less satisfaction with the efficacy of the agent. How loyal are neurologists to other MS brands? What percentage of neurologists plan to stop prescribing each of the leading MS brands in the next year and why? How do surveyed MS patients predict their use of leading MS brands will change over the next year? To what extent does physician and patient loyalty correlate with overall perception for each brand?

  *   Messaging Effectiveness

- Surveyed patients rank Avonex’s website messages highlighting an “effective” therapy as the most appealing MS brand messages. What specific characteristics drive message resonance among MS patients; do neurologists value a different type of brand message? Which brands are getting the most patient requests and does this correlate with message resonance or promotional spending?

- The majority of surveyed neurologists cannot remember a specific MS brand message unaided. Survey results indicate neurologists can readily associate Tysabri with its physician-targeted messaging concerning a “67% relative reduction in relapse rate.” What factors drive strong message resonance and recall among the neurologists? When neurologists and patients incorrectly identify a brand message, are certain brands more likely to get the credit? Are there opportunities to message MS brands more effectively to a highly informed and educated patient population? What are the most important attributes to message against for emerging agents?


Primary physician research: Quantitative results from our survey of 101 U.S. neurologists. Surveyed physicians have been in practice a minimum of two years post-residency (17 years, on average). Surveyed neurologists treat an average of 56 patients per month (with a minimum of 15 multiple sclerosis cases per month). Physician survey collection dates: July 30 to August 1, 2009. 

Primary patient research: Quantitative results from our survey of 253 U.S. patients. All surveyed patients report they have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis by a physician. Surveyed patients were between the ages of 20 and 80, with a mean age of 47. Surveyed patients have been receiving treatment for MS for an average of 9.9 years. Patient survey collection dates: July 30 and July 31, 2009.

Key Brands Included in the Surveys and Analysis: Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Rebif, Tysabri.

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