GSK is running an unbranded “disease state” campaign for its biologic drug, Benlysta. The disease is lupus, and GSK, in combination with HGS, offers one of the most innovative treatments available. Unfortunately, though prevalence is estimated at 1.5/100K, this autoimmune disease is hard to detect and treat. More unfortunately, GSK is using advertising that focuses on patients pretending they don’t have symptoms of the disease.

The “mask” campaign features a sufferer wearing a mask during her daily routine and a trip to the doctor. At the physician’s office, she takes off the mask and shares her symptoms. Why? She must have downloaded the website’s symptom-checker. But the symptoms she shouldn’t be hiding are never mentioned.

The campaign’s objective is to get patients to talk about (or “unmask”) their symptoms so the physician can determine if Benlysta should be prescribed. The tactic is to drive patients to the website for information. In terms of imagery, the “mask” is disturbing because it looks so much like the patient. She is not completely “hiding.” Despite the confusion, the mask is just creepy enough to be memorable. And complications from lupus are much scarier.

As a DTC leader, GSK has always been a proponent of its benefits to show people ways to improve their health. We hope that in this case, lupus patients are not too scared to take action and learn more.

Deborah Dick-Rath is the president of Epic Proportions, a healthcare communications consultancy. She can be reached at