Now on the market, Benlysta meets skeptics

Human Genome Sciences' new lupus drug Benlysta was approved to great fanfare earlier this year. But according to a Washington Post story, some doctors aren't convinced that the drug is worth its price tag, so some patients might not ever get a chance to try it.

Anecdotal reports on the drug are strong. The WP's report begins by detailing the story of a McLean, VA, woman who got great results from the drug during a clinical trial. Meanwhile, one rheumatology expert told the Post that only 10 to 20 percent of his patients are likely to benefit from the drug, and there's no way to tell whether it would be helpful even for them in the long run. Another rheumatologist expressed skepticism about Benlysta because he's not sure who would benefit from it based on the data so far.

As the Post notes, lupus patients are in a difficult spot. They have been hopeful about the first new lupus treatment in 50 years; however, it might prove ineffective for them. Furthermore, they may never get to try it because of unimpressed doctors and a high price tag.

An HGS executive countered those worries by saying that so far, payers haven't been reluctant to foot the bill for Benlysta. Its price is in line with other biotech meds. Doctors will come to understand how and how well it works in time. "Rheumatologists are learning as they go, and they'll have to experiment in their own practices to see how well it works," said HGS VP Barry Labinger (as quoted by the Post). "There are no simple outcomes with lupus."

- get the story from the WP