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Rare diseases: creative solutions for unique challenges

A Q&A with Elisia Cox

Elisia Cox

Author: Elisia Cox

Associate Account Director

Date posted: 28/02/2022

As the name suggests, rare diseases are unusual and unique, bringing their own challenges to the healthcare professional’s table. With so many variables to consider, brands must work harder than ever to make sure education, awareness and product communications are getting the attention of both HCPs and patients.

This Rare Disease Day, we spoke to Elisia Cox, Rare Disease Associate Account Director here at Purple, about her passion for this therapy area and the challenges brands face.


What motivates you about creative communications in the rare diseases sector?

I was lucky enough to meet a clinical trial patient for a brand I worked with. Hearing their success story first-hand was really inspirational.

Since most rare diseases currently have no effective treatment, the products we work on are often life-changing for patients. In some cases, they are the difference between life and death. Knowing that our work helps to get the right products to the people who need them motivates me every day.


Where are brands likely to meet challenges in marketing to the rare disease audience?

Getting the message to the right people is key. If brands don’t take the time to identify the multiple stakeholders involved throughout diagnosis and treatment, their efforts may go unheard.

The world of rare diseases is such a unique landscape for HCPs. A disease is rare when it affects less than 1 in 2000 people, meaning they may dismiss rare diseases as something they will likely never come across in practice. So when time is already scarce, engaging with brands that they feel they have no need for is often met with disinterest.

We know that by investing in insight, we can better understand the patient and HCP journey, so that our communications meet the needs of the stakeholders.


Do brands need to take a different approach than they would to other, more common, diseases?

In contrast to other therapy areas, rare disease communications require a greater focus on awareness and education, rather than simply competing to be a market leader. Time to diagnosis is a major issue for patients with a rare condition, meaning that brands need to play a part in educating HCPs. This leaves them better equipped to identify patients – and the treatments available to them. Educational events (in the form of panels, digital seminars or exhibitions) all have a big part to play, in conjunction with product launches and other direct marketing activities, because they can be much more personalised to the audience.


Why is personalised marketing so important in rare diseases?

There are over 6000 different conditions that are classified as rare. And it’s not uncommon for different patients with the same condition to present with different symptoms. Therefore, even within the same disease, every HCP’s exposure and baseline knowledge is going to vary.

With this in mind, brands need to create communications that can be adapted to engage HCPs as well as patients and carers.


What is Purple’s role in the future of rare disease communications?

At Purple, our mission is to create communications that actually work. For me, that means always building on learnings from this unique sector, as well as bringing a fresh, insightful and targeted perspective to our clients who have life-changing products in the pipeline.

With each product we help launch, each educational material we create, and each industry event we attend, we are changing the landscape of rare disease by raising its profile in the medical community. We are elevating the voices of rare disease patients who need it most – and the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is listening!


Here at Purple, we really get the challenges that rare disease marketing brings, and we care about meeting those challenges head on. We know how important good science and insight are in creating exceptional communications that achieve what they set out to do. Want to know more? Contact us now at


Elisia Cox is Associate Account Director at the Purple Agency, working closely with our global and UK healthcare clients to create campaigns that resonate with both HCPs and patients. Having worked in the industry for over 7 years, she has a particular passion for rare diseases and making a difference in this space.