Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and NEXUS: Moving People with Mental Health Issues from Hopeless to Hopeful

Mental health continues to be an unmet need, particularly among underserved populations, and the conventional ways of addressing it have not been successful. Otsuka, a leading pharmaceutical company with a focus on mental health, engaged Real Chemistry to address persistent gaps in treatment with new and innovative solutions.

Working alongside another Otsuka agency partner, Real Chemistry supported the creation of NEXUS (Neuroscience Experts and Cross-Sector Unconventional Stakeholders), comprised of a unique community of traditional and non-traditional mental health stakeholders who are bringing innovative solutions to address critical needs in mental health.

Through in-depth research, stakeholder interviews, and expert insights, Otsuka established a focus for NEXUS on three key areas of unmet need in mental health where Otsuka’s innovative approach could have the greatest impact: women, youth, and the justice system. While the needs of these groups are different, they share many similarities, such as the need for greater awareness, early intervention, a timely diagnosis, continuity of care, and support throughout life transitions. One of the goals of NEXUS is to work collaboratively to resolve the mental health challenges facing these groups at critical junctures, such as women becoming primary caregivers, youth moving schools, and individuals transitioning out of pre-incarceration community mental health services into the justice system.

To effect meaningful change, NEXUS is collaborating with 15 organizations, including mental health and caregiving groups, medical and government associations.

“Knowing it ‘takes a village’ to create meaningful change, we’re not just collaborating with traditional mental health stakeholders; we’re also engaging individuals and groups who are not typically associated with mental health but who bring relevant experience and insights – to shine a different light on issues and bring new ideas,” asserts Eli Perez, Otsuka’s Director of Congress & Stakeholder Management.

Real Chemistry and Otsuka’s collaboration on NEXUS is a continuation of joint initiatives the two have undertaken. Otsuka has created similar educational programs for other underserved groups, including the Global Council on Alzheimer’s Disease (GCAD), which focuses on patient-centered care. Real Chemistry supports this work by identifying audience segments including healthcare professionals and academics and leaders and influencers from advocacy groups and financial institutions who can share knowledge and ideas around the best ways to meet patient needs. Launched eight years ago, GCAD, is currently exploring the impact of untreated agitation with the goal of making meaningful progress in this overlooked aspect of Alzheimer’s, according to Mary Michael Otsuka’s VP of patient advocacy and stakeholder management.

“Otsuka places the audience’s voice at the center, listening and learning to address critical junctures in their experience,” explains Michelle Toscas, Managing Director, Otsuka Integration Lead at Real Chemistry. “Leveraging integrated digital and primary research helps us better understand the communities Otsuka serves and drives target activations.”

In April 2020, NEXUS launched a six-episode Building Mental Resiliency video series to support conversations and share resources to manage the uncertainness of the COVID-19 pandemic. The videos brought together experts to share information and ideas to build stronger mental health, particularly for those who are most vulnerable.  Episodes began with topics relevant to those most adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and expanded to cover issues ranging from COVID-19 support, caregiving challenges, the impact on Alzheimer’s patients, chronic conditions and systemic racism. Otsuka collaborated with the partner organizations and featured guests and used paid media to distribute the videos on a grassroots level. Episodes of the series also were circulated by PhRMA, BioNJ and MM&M.

Real Chemistry created a website and Facebook Page, which were particularly critical to disseminate NEXUS content during the COVID-19 pandemic. It shared additional research around the impact of COVID-19 on patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals at a virtual blogger summit alongside partner institutions and key opinion leaders. In addition, Real Chemistry developed monthly social content, which was supported by earned and paid promotion.

“You hear from the experts that the mental health burden of COVID-19 could surpass the physical part of it,” said Mary Michael, “We’ll try to support as many people as possible and help build that mental resiliency.”

During 2020, 47,486 users engaged, watched, or visited NEXUS content. Because a campaign targeted to the communities NEXUS identified has never been done before, the team is using this result as a benchmark to create a year-two program that expands the voices and perspectives of NEXUS champions through added multi-channel content and an expanded NEXUS website, with key metrics in place that enable us to nimbly adjust and evolve our efforts.

“Otsuka and NEXUS are meeting a critical set of unconventional gaps in our system that often go uncovered and underserved within the complex mental health experience,” says Toscas. “We’re looking forward to helping more patients moving forward.”

Will Hargreaves, Otsuka CRL, Real Chemistry

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Will Hargreaves
Will Hargreaves

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