The Lupus Foundation of America is funding and leading the development of a first-of-its-kind tool to monitor lupus disease activity called the Rapid Evaluation of Activity in Lupus (LFA-REAL) System. LFA-REAL will address major challenges in lupus treatment and disease management, and has the potential to greatly improve medical care and quality of life for people living with the autoimmune disease.
"One of the biggest problems in patient care is the lack of tools which clinicians can use to make and assess treatment decisions," said Sandra C. Raymond, president and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America. "The Lupus Foundation of America is developing LFA-REAL in collaboration with a multi-stakeholder group, including doctors, researchers, drug development companies, agencies of the federal government, people with lupus and health insurers. The system will engage patients as partners in their own care, enabling informed shared decisions that can improve health, identify better treatments for each person's unique situation and potentially improve insurance coverage of current and future treatments."
"We are working to solve a real concern in patient care by developing LFA-REAL," said Joan T. Merrill, M.D., head of the Clinical Pharmacology Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and medical director for the Lupus Foundation of America. "Physicians in practice are being asked for accurate, validated benchmarks in quality assurance programs and to support insurance justifications for the use of expensive medications. Current tools to assess lupus disease activity are burdensome, unwieldy or are incorrectly performed by people who are not properly trained. The LFA-REAL System offers a solution by giving clinicians a simple but reliable method to quantify the progress of their complicated lupus patients."
LFA-REAL will use a series of simple questions to determine a treatment's impact on the patient's health and quality of life. It will be easy to use with web and mobile-based options.
The concerns addressed by LFA-REAL go beyond the clinic and also tackle barriers in the development of new lupus treatments. People with lupus need an arsenal of targeted, safe and more tolerable therapies to bring the disease under control and greatly improve their quality of life. LFA-REAL has the potential to provide important data that could simplify the process of approving new lupus therapies.
Furthermore, in an environment where insurance companies are critically looking at the value and cost of care, LFA-REAL can offer information that will support insurance coverage for current and new treatments.
"The increased focus on cost control has led many health insurers to mandate that doctors provide solid evidence that a drug will provide real benefit to a patient and demonstrate an effective use of health care dollars," said Raymond. "This requirement already is creating a challenge for many healthcare providers who feel they are not properly equipped to accurately respond to this request using tools currently available. LFA-REAL will be a simple method that can show health insurers these new treatments are cost effective at managing lupus."
Over the next three years, the foundation will lead a multi-stakeholder group to develop and test the tool at multiple clinics across the country.