Increase in Biologic Use in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Patients May be Driven by Relative Newcomer Benlysta, According to a Recent BioTrends Report

November 14, 2012 - Exton, Penn. – BioTrends Research Group, one of the world’s leading research and advisory firms for specialized biopharmaceutical issues, finds that although biologic use is much lower among SLE patients compared to other immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, rheumatologists in the United States reported they significantly increased biologic use among SLE patients in 2012, up 4 percent since last year. This increase in biologic penetration in SLE patients may be due to physicians’ comfort level with biologics and/or the availability of relative newcomer, GlaxoSmithKline/Human Genome Science’s Benlysta (belimumab), which is the only biologic indicated for SLE giving physicians another treatment option they previously never had. Benlysta was approved by the FDA in March of last year, which is the first newly approved agent for SLE in approximately 50 years. The findings come from the recent, TreatmentTrends®: Lupus US report in which 100 rheumatologists in the United States were surveyed.

Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine; Sanofi-Aventis, generics) continues to be the most commonly used agent to treat SLE regardless of disease severity. Biologic agents, Orencia (abatacept; Bristol Myers Squibb), Rituxan (rituximab; Genentech), and Benlysta are typically used as later lines of therapy for lupus treatment. Benlysta is the only FDA approved biologic for SLE which means physicians are using Orencia and Rituxan in an off-label manner when prescribing it for SLE. Generally speaking, rheumatologists rate biologic agents less favorably on many key attributes than other immunosuppressant agents for the treatment of SLE. In addition, relative to cheaper, generic treatment options, the biologics, Orencia, Rituxan and Benlysta are considered the least cost effective therapies with the poorest managed care coverage, are viewed as more difficult for patients to take and more difficult to adjust dosing compared to other products.

One and a half years post-launch, more than two-thirds of rheumatologists indicated they have tried Benlysta and are current users of the product. They believe the top four advantages of Benlysta are its efficacy, novel mechanism of action, favorable tolerability/side effect profile and its steroid-sparing effect. Benlysta’s cost is reported to be its greatest disadvantage, however, physicians also mentioned the intravenous route of administration, perceived modest/poor efficacy and the lack of clinical efficacy in patient subsets, such as African Americans, lupus nephritis, CNS and severe SLE patients as disadvantages.

In addition to the TreatmentTrends®: Lupus US report BioTrends has a full complement of reports focusing on lupus treatment in the United States: TreatmentTrends®: Lupus EU, ChartTrends®: Lupus U.S., PatientTrends®: Lupus U.S. and LaunchTrends: Benlysta Wave 4 U.S. (1 year post-launch).

TreatmentTrends®: Lupus US is an annual, quantitative publication based on online physician surveys with 100 rheumatologists fielded in September 2012 in the U.S. The primary objectives of the study are to:

  • Quantify SLE case loads by patient type and severity, source of patient referrals, and physician practice demographics
  • Evaluate the treatment goals of physicians and quantify drug treatment by class/brand, line of therapy and patient type/severity group
  • Evaluate physicians’ attitudes and perceptions regarding: the importance of product attributes, performance of existing therapies against these attributes
  • Identify drivers and barriers to product adoption and usage
  • Quantify current and anticipated future patient share of the leading products in each drug class (antimalarials, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologic agents) which are often administered in a ‘cocktail’
  • Evaluate the familiarity with and interest in products in late-stage (Phase II/III) development for SLE

About BioTrends Research Group
BioTrends Research Group provides syndicated and custom primary market research to pharmaceutical manufacturers competing in clinically evolving, specialty pharmaceutical markets. For information on BioTrends publications and research capabilities, please contact us at (610) 321-9400 or www. Bio-Trends. com. BioTrends is a Decision Resources Group company.

About Decision Resources Group
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