GlaxoSmithKline and Human Genome Sciences launched a patient community for lupus sufferers and their friends and family, in anticipation of an FDA decision on Benlysta in March.
Located online at usinlupus.com, the website—built by Euro RSCG Tonic—includes personal stories about living with lupus, information about symptoms and coping strategies for managing the disease. Visitors are asked to join by registering on the site, to receive tips and advice, as well as information from GSK and Human Genome Sciences. Online registrants can check or uncheck boxes giving the companies permission to “market or advertise to you about lupus,” or “market or advertise to you about medicines that treat lupus.”
A direct response print ad in WebMD Magazine's January/February 2011 issue asks respondents to rate their healthcare professional in terms of competency “when it comes to managing my lupus,” in addition to other questions about symptoms and diagnosis. The print ad acknowledges that “some people featured in ‘the us in lupus' are paid spokespeople for Human Genome Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline.” Lupus patients can also enroll by telephone, at 1-855-USINLUPUS.
Though it's not guaranteed, analysts and company executives expect a thumb's up on Benlysta from FDA regulators in March, after a 13-2 advisory committee vote in favor of approval last November. The drug was designated for priority review by FDA last August, with a target decision date set for December 9, but FDA extended the review for three months after requesting more information. If approved, the drug has blockbuster potential, analysts have said.
If approved, Benlysta would represent the first FDA-approved medication for lupus in over 50 years, or “since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president,” said Sandra Raymond, president and CEO of the nonprofit Lupus Foundation of America, in a statement congratulating HGS and GSK on Benlysta's progress.
Calls to HGS and GSK for comment were not immediately returned.