Key players in Japan lupus market have significant scope to improve presence in digital space, says GlobalData

Pharma companies offer support to Japanese patients and rheumatologists with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) through unbranded and branded digital channels providing disease support tools. However, there is a significant opportunity for key players such as GSK and AstraZeneca to improve their presence in the digital space, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Historically, lupus was treated using corticosteroids, anti-malarial drugs and immunomodulators in Japan. Biologics such as belimumab (GSK’s Benlysta) and the recent approval of anifrolumab-fnia (AstraZeneca’s Saphnelo) in September 2021 marked the advent of effective treatment options that address the pathophysiology of the disease. Currently, Eli Lilly’s baricitinib, a JAK inhibitor is the only drug in the pipeline for the treatment of SLE in Japan (Phase III).

According to GlobalData’s ‘Pharmaceutical Intelligence Center’, the market size for lupus in Japan is estimated to increase at a compound annual growth rate of about 3% from approximately US$47m in 2020 to US$60m in 2028.

GlobalData’s ‘Digital Marketing Intelligence’ identified limited branded support for SLE patients in Japan, with only a single branded website for Plaquenil (Asahikasei-pharma-sle.jp/patient). In contrast, AstraZeneca’s Sle-smile.jp and Asahi Kasei’s Asahikasei-pharma-sle.jp offer unbranded support. Furthermore, AstraZeneca and GSK also offer branded and unbranded content for healthcare professionals through their websites, Med.astrazeneca.co.jp and Gskpro.com, respectively. However, mobile apps and social media support are currently not available.

Neha Myneni, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Although there are quite a few marketed therapies available for SLE treatment in Japan, branded support for patients is limited to only conventional therapies. Hence, AstraZeneca and GSK should seek to leverage digital platforms to effectively promote their brands and ancillary content to patients.

An analysis of traffic for the websites over the last 12 months (December 2020 to November 2021) reveals that AstraZeneca achieved the most traffic to its unbranded website Sle-smile.jp at ~42,000 visits. Traffic to AstraZeneca’s Med.astrazeneca.co.jp (~596,000 visits) and GSK’s Gskpro.com (~4.1 million visits) is high, however, these sites are multi-indication. Asahi Kasei’s Asahikasei-pharma-sle.jp started receiving traffic from November 2021 (~300 visits, which also includes traffic to the branded page for Plaquenil Asahikasei-pharma-sle.jp/patient).

Myneni concludes: “Support from the existing players in the Japanese lupus space is currently more focused towards HCPs as extensive awareness is still required from this stakeholder group about the condition and effective treatments. Moreover, key companies operating in the lupus space could focus on exploring alternative channels such as mobile apps and social media to differentiate amongst the competition and to increase their reach to key stakeholders.”

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