Exact Sciences looks to boost Cologuard orders through national TV ad campaign

Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy says after a test run, the Madison company is taking its ad campaign national.

“It’s too early to know what the outcome will be,” Conroy said on an earnings call yesterday. “But the facts dictate that television advertising works. It drives patients to their physicians, their physicians to try Cologuard, and we also see our current customer base reordering.”

The move comes as Exact Sciences tries signing up more customers and doctors for its early colon cancer detection screening kit — and get commercial insurers to cover it. The ad focuses on how easy the screening is, which Conroy said will “reduce fear and increase comfort” of colon cancer testing.

The test campaign was focused on those 50 and older, with spots running on HGTV, the Golf Channel, CNN and shows such as “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune,” and “Family Feud.”

The 9-week campaign ran in six test markets: Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Madison, Sacramento and Tampa Bay. And those markets saw 50 percent more orders and 100 percent more new doctors prescribing Cologuard compared to five comparable control markets, Conroy said.

The national campaign, which kicked off three weeks ago, comes on top of the company’s existing sales and marketing efforts, he added.

“We’re in the process of creating a brand that creates a very strong and accessible impression with consumers,” Conroy said. “These consumer talk to each other. They tell their friends about Cologuard, an easier way to get screened. We know that is starting to happen.”

Conroy also commented on the company’s recent strategy to sue two commercial insurers, claiming that coverage mandates in the states they operate in require them to cover Cologuard.

A check of federal court records shows settlement negotiations between Exact Sciences and Humana will begin next week in Kentucky. In the other lawsuit, against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the insurer has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Conroy declined to go into details on pending litigation, but he said he’s had conversations with private insurers who “have acknowledged their obligation to cover Cologuard.”

“There’s been a positive impact on the discussions that we’re having across the country, and we expect those discussions to continue, to be productive, getting insurers aware of their obligations under state law,” he said.

Exact Sciences’ revenues for the first quarter of the year were $14.8 million, a 244 percent jump from the $4.3 million from the same period last year. It completed 40,000 Cologuard tests in the quarter, compared to 11,000 in the first quarter of 2015.

Its net loss for the quarter was $47.5 million, up from $35.8 million in the first quarter of 2015.

The company’s stock closed down 9.16 percent at $6.35 per share.

See an earlier WisBusiness.com story on Exact Sciences’ lawsuits

See the earnings release