Nearly everyone has heard of Marvel Comics, which creates fantastic comic book superheroes who become stars of blockbuster movies. But not everyone is aware the company also has an in-house marketing agency that creates custom-made comics.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA invited seven “superheroes” from around the country to meet with Marvel Custom Solutions in New York City and share their stories of how they cope with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) IBD.
It is estimated that 1.6 million people currently have an IBD in the U.S. Many of them, whether they have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC), often mask some part of their identity. And isn’t that what superheroes do?
During a daylong workshop, the group of seven opened up about what it means to have IBD and shared the emotional and physical impact the disease has had on their lives. Marvel Custom writers noted that, while the challenges varied, one trait was common to all these individuals: their determination to inspire others who live with IBD.
After the workshop, and with the help of other members of the IBD community, the superhero Samarium was born, and is now featured in new graphic illustrations.
On July 13, the global awareness campaign called IBD Unmasked was launched. It was developed by Takeda in partnership with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and international specialists Drs. David Rubin and Ellen Scherl.
“Each IBD patient I see has his or her own inner strength, which never ceases to amaze me. My patients are real-life superheroes, and I am thrilled to participate in IBD Unmasked to help recognize the courage of this community,” Rubin, the Joseph B. Kirsner Professor of Medicine and chief of the section of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Chicago Medicine, said in a press release.
“Although there are more effective treatment options than ever before, the physical symptoms patients experience may be challenging to endure, and may leave them feeling isolated. Having a strong support network of family and friends, and an open and trusting relationship with their healthcare providers, are important and sometimes overlooked aspects of managing these diseases,” Rubin said.
Every website page view of the series means that Takeda will donate $1 — up to $25,000 — to CCFA. IBD Unmasked will also engage people in real-life CCFA events. The campaign aims to highlight the strength and resilience of the IBD community and encourage patients to embrace their inner superheroes, as well as empower people to have honest and open conversations with their healthcare providers. The series will also feature interactive activities, like quizzes or other educational materials, about managing Crohn’s or UC.
“Sharing the accounts of real-life IBD superheroes will help bring further understanding of what it is like to live with IBD, and empower patients to be able to speak openly about their experiences,” said Laura Wingate, vice president of Patient & Professional Services at CCFA.
“The IBD Unmasked graphic illustration series and campaign website offer an engaging look at a serious topic. We are very excited to offer an innovative and new look into the lives of our patients and their caregivers and hope to dispel a lot of the assumptions people have about chronic diseases and IBD in particular,” Wingate said.
IBD Unmasked was launched first in the United States. Other countries in Europe, Asia, and South American will take the campaign online throughout this 2016, with content and partners adapted to reflect their local languages and cultures.