GSK offers makeovers and more for women of color living with lupus

GSK Night of Beauty lupus
GSK hosts women of color who are living with lupus, along with friends and local physicians and advocates, on its "Night of Beauty" tour. (GlaxoSmithKline)

GlaxoSmithKline’s “Night of Beauty” tour is extending its run. Held at local Sephora stores, the community events offer education and makeovers to people living with lupus—particularly women of color, who are two to three times more likely to develop the autoimmune disease.

GSK invites hundreds of patients, plus a friend or family member of each, along with patient ambassadors, local healthcare professionals and local advocacy groups to talk about health and beauty for people living with lupus. Topics include hair, skin and nutrition, fitness and exercise advice as well as panel discussions with local rheumatologists or other experts depending on the location. 

RELATED: Benlysta maker GSK drafts soccer star Boxx to get lupus patients talking

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Each person living with lupus receives a makeover and professional photography session. Carla Pearson, vice president of the U.S. specialty marketing team at GSK, said that’s one of her favorite parts of the evenings.

“You can see such a difference in confidence in the before and after photos. What we might think is a simple makeover is us investing in them, which we believe will translate into them making a bigger investment in themselves,” she said.

GSK makes Benlysta, the only biologic medicine specifically approved to treat systemic lupus erythematosus. People with lupus are overwhelmingly female, according to the Lupus Foundation of America, which reports that 90% of the 1.5 million Americans affected with some form of lupus are women. The majority of them are between ages 15 and 45.

The next two events will be held in Dallas and Los Angeles, and they'll follow successful nights held in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago. And they will continue: GSK is currently evaluating and lining up “Night of Beauty” dates and locations for 2020. The initiative is part of GSK's umbrella "Us in Lupus" education and support program for people living with lupus.

Pearson said the events show that for GSK to fulfill its mission around patients, it has to meet the needs of every patient and look for or create ways to meet patients where they are.

“When we think especially about multicultural marketing and multicultural awareness, we have to be willing to engage in different and unique ways,” she said.

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline unveils $139M U.S. plant for Benlysta production

Another lesson learned from the events is the importance of local community support. Drugmakers sometimes take for granted that people living with a disease know how to find resources and support locally, Pearson said. But that’s not always the case, and for "Night of Beauty," having physicians and advocates present can help patients discover avenues of ongoing support.

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