The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval on April 18, 2000 and subsequent launch of ZYVOX is the culmination of more than a decade of dedication by Pharmacia Corporation and three years of strategic public relations research and planning by Edelman Health Chicago in bringing the first antibiotic from a completely new class in more than three decades to market. To introduce this powerful new antibiotic to the medical community and the public at large, the ZYVOX public relations team developed a multi-faceted program encompassing strategic physician, patient and media relations.  Because of the superior qualitative and quantitative results achieved by a program focused on the fundamentals of public relations, the U.S. introduction and launch of ZYVOX is an ideal candidate for a SABRE award in the Pharmaceutical Rx category.

The introduction of ZYVOX to the U.S. marketplace presented the public relations team with the opportunity to showcase the foresight of Pharmacia’s researchers over a decade ago that physicians would need more virulent options in their antibiotic arsenal.  The commitment of these researchers resulted in a novel therapeutic option for the treatment Gram-positive infections, currently defined by many in the public health and infectious disease communities as one of the greatest challenges in hospital infections.

The key public relations objectives for the introduction of ZYVOX include the following:

  • Establish the problem of antibiotic resistance and shortcomings of current therapies and the need for a new class of antibiotics.
  • Establish Pharmacia Corporation’s leadership in infectious disease through the introduction of a new drug class: the oxazolidinones.
  • Establish ZYVOX as the new standard of treatment of Gram-positive infections in hospitals and/or alternative healthcare facilities.

The planning and research phase of the launch of ZYVOX consisted of continuous dialog with and engagement of leading academics and opinion leaders on the frontlines of hospital infection management, as well as constant briefing of health and science reporters covering the topics of infectious disease and antibiotic resistance. 

Physician research was conducted in a number of group and one-on-one forums that facilitated interactive discussion on the latest ZYVOX data and physicians’ perspective on key information.  One major initiative convened a worldwide advisory board of physicians to hone their knowledge of emerging infectious disease topics for the purpose of future peer education. In anticipation of the FDA’s approval of ZYVOX, Pharmacia Corporation and the ZYVOX public relations team further engaged more than 30 physicians in a broad range of specialty areas to become proactive advocates, educating both peers and the general public on the indications for which ZYVOX was approved.  Throughout the launch of ZYVOX, these physician advocates also served as spokespeople to both trade and consumer media outlets, generating responsible awareness of the product’s intended uses.

To gauge the media’s interest and knowledge on antibiotic resistance and current treatment options for Gram-positive infections, the public relations team developed and distributed the Science Writer’s Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy a year prior to the U.S. introduction of ZYVOX. This guide served as a point of discussion when contacting reporters, allowing the ZYVOX team to assess the additional need for reporter education prior to launch, as well as potential interest in covering the introduction of an antibiotic developed to treat serious hospital infections. 

The ZYVOX public relations team’s strategic approach in meeting key product objectives first addressed the need to define for physicians and reporters the “gap” in new antibiotic introductions, the increase in Gram-positive infections and the rise of resistance and related infections. The team’s second focus was to educate and leverage third-party support and media attention to effectively cover ZYVOX and the oxazolidinone class upon approval and launch. The final aspect of the strategic approach ensured the establishment of a best practice model for a global ZYVOX launch. 

To continue to build momentum and create excitement among physicians and the general public about the introduction of ZYVOX to the medical community, the public relations team executed the first of a two-pronged media outreach strategy surrounding the FDA Advisory Committee Meeting held March 24, 2000.  Outreach surrounding the advisory committee meeting consisted of targeted contact and follow up with key top-tier medical/science reporters, as well as specific trade media outlets. 

The momentum generated by pre-approval media outreach culminated in a full-scale media blitz surrounding the FDA approval of ZYVOX on April 18, 2000. Press kits outlining the FDA approval of ZYVOX, key product attributes and corresponding background on Gram-positive infections were sent to an exhaustive list of trade and consumer media reporters. The news release was also distributed via blastfax and PR Newswire upon receipt of the FDA’s approval letter for ZYVOX.  In conjunction with news release distribution and the ZYVOX public relations team’s outreach efforts, a VNR/B-roll package highlighting a physician, patient and ZYVOX discovery/manufacturing footage was fed via satellite throughout the day on April 18.

Through targeted outreach efforts, the ZYVOX public relations team secured interviews for multiple ZYVOX physician spokespeople, resulting in approximately 250 million media impressions overall, including key placements in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. The ZYVOX VNR/B-roll was also picked up by more than 300 network affiliates in approximately 165 markets throughout the country. 

Public relations initiatives also assisted the ZYVOX brand team in reaching broader product goals, including:

  • Surpassing year-end sales goals for 2000 
  • Achieving unprecedented formulary acceptance in nearly 1,500 hospitals as of November 2000

In 2000, Pharmacia Corporation received numerous industry accolades for the introduction of ZYVOX, including “The Best of What’s New” award by Popular Science magazine and “Drug of the Year” by Medical Advertising News. ZYVOX was also among the products highlighted when Medical Advertising News named Pharmacia "Company of the Year."
Since its April 2000 launch, ZYVOX has already proven its extraordinary therapeutic value to patients and physicians. Nearly 30,000 patients have benefited from the drug, resulting from formulary and public reimbursement strategies that supported appropriate patient access to ZYVOX. Pharmacia Corporation remains committed to investing in physician education to ensure the medical community is well informed about the appropriate use of this important therapeutic option.