Benlysta launches multi-channel DTC campaign

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New online and print DTC advertising for Benlysta, targeting US patients with lupus, are launching this month, said executives from Human Genome Sciences.

In the consumer creative, real patients will share their stories in an effort to build a patient community and “empower them to expect better management of their disease activity,” said Barry Labinger, EVP and chief commercial officer for the biotech.

The branded work is also meant to spur urgency among rheumatologists to initiate trials of the drug. “Rheumatologists report that 90% of the time when appropriate patients reflect the drug by name, they receive that drug,” Labinger noted.

The creative is part of a slate of promotional programs set to kick off as Human Genome, and its partner GlaxoSmithKline, seek to build a market for Benlysta, their treatment for systemic lupus approved in March.

Full implementation of the commercial plan couldn't come at a better time. Third-quarter Benlysta net revenue was $18.8 million, below consensus of $20.1 million. The drug has shown steady sales increases, but there are “opportunities to accelerate growth,” said Human Genome CEO Thomas Watkins.

About 3,000 patients worldwide get the drug, HGS says. (About 200,000 US patients have moderate or severe forms of the disease.) Following EU approval in July, it's available in a few European countries.

The consumer campaign will offer tools to help others identify and describe the impact of their disease in discussions with physicians, with materials and programs executed through narrow marketing channels. “Lupus patients are active information [seekers] and can be reached via a very targeted, efficient media plan,” said Labinger.

Before Benlysta's approval, GSK and HGS started the online patient portal usinlupus.com for lupus sufferers and their friends and family. About 15,000 patients have signed up to get information about new treatments.

HGS has received DDMAC approval for new sales aids and is expanding the speakers' bureau and programs designed to raise levels of scientific engagement among lupus experts and treaters. The number of its paid speakers went from about 10 to about 70, letting it conduct “three-fold more programs” in the fourth quarter than in the first two quarters combined, according to Labinger.

Collins Stewart analyst Salveen Richter says the additional marketing programs “should aid Benlysta uptake,” but cautions, “getting physicians from trial phase to into the adoption phase (treating more than a few patients) will require significant education on patient identification and efficacy assessment, given the heterogeneity of [systemic lupus] and patient-care and [will] likely take at least 6 months.”
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