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Case study: Revolutionising Management of Hidradenitis Suppurativa in Europe

Launching the first systemic treatment for a poorly understood dermatological disease

Published: 13 Jan 2019

Hidradenitis suppurativa

Client: AbbVie

Agency: Lucid

Campaign: Revolutionising Management of Hidradenitis Suppurativa in Europe: Why? What? How?

Timescale: N/A

A quick look

Imagine being seen by your clinician as an unsolved problem? Many patients with HS waited ~eight years to finally receive a diagnosis, while being examined by ~five different clinicians over ~17 visits. The prognosis was no better once HS was confirmed. Up to half of HS patients were told that major surgery to remove lesions, fistulae and scarring was their only opportunity for a ‘cure’. With limited specialist expertise available, HS looked set to remain an ill-understood and under-treated disease.

The ‘Revolutionising management of HS in Europe: Why? What? How?’ programme set out to change all that. Launched by AbbVie and strategic partner, Lucid, the programme has advanced clinical practice, built a community and established a culture in HS management, which continues to grow throughout Europe.


AbbVie faced a huge challenge when it launched the first systemic treatment for the poorly understood dermatological disease, hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), in Europe. Care quality in HS varied widely, and the first set of clinical guidelines had only just been published but were not yet routinely implemented.

AbbVie was the first and only pharmaceutical partner to the HS community in Europe and it was clear their partnership needed to provide more than just an effective treatment. The limited European expert community needed to be united behind a common vision to raise quality of care in HS by driving a change in clinical belief and behaviour across Europe.


The ‘Revolutionising management of HS in Europe: Why? What? How?’ programme leveraged principles of behaviour change to raise HS quality of care. An extensive, coordinated medical education initiative, the programme had three fundamental objectives: 1. Create belief that HS care can and should be improved; 2. Define best practice for HS management; 3. Implement best practice and create a community movement.

Identification and engagement of pivotal European HS experts to become leaders to shape an overarching educational plan and deliver initiatives was the foundation for success. A multichannel education campaign was needed to bring a breadth of belief shift across community dermatologists, while advanced clinical HS management recommendations to define new standards of care were required.

As beliefs shifted, the programme expanded to include skill-based, in-clinic training to support implementation of best practice in dermatologists identified as future HS specialists.


The multichannel education campaign shifted belief in 4,500 dermatologists throughout Europe, with the vast majority now acknowledging the
unmet need in HS and the rationale for advancing quality of care. Publication of HS Alliance consensus guidance on HS best practice ensured advanced clinical recommendations reached dermatologists in ~ 16 countries across Europe.

Additionally, 127 delegates across 17 European countries were trained to specialist level, resulting in the establishment of 43 further specialist centres across Europe to treat >1,750 HS patients per month. All participants are now connected via an ongoing alumni programme, with 99% training others in best practice and continuing to build a growing HS community.

Client verdict

“This has been our most ambitious educational journey to date, but after only two years, HS is now firmly on the dermatology community’s agenda. Time spent discussing HS at international congresses is growing; and both the number of HS specialists and – importantly – the number of patients receiving optimal care is increasing. However, there is still more to do. We will not stop here!” Fouad Amer, Therapeutic Area Lead, Dermatology & Ophthalmology, AbbVie

For us at Lucid, this was the first time we had built a programme to support a change in clinical behaviour across such an extensive community. We learnt that the programme’s success was down to the unity and aligned vision between AbbVie and the expert community. The programme has not just advanced clinical practice, it has built a community and established a culture, creating behavioural changes in HS that will outlive any educational initiative.

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Fishawack Health

Established in 2001, Fishawack Health (FH) is a purposefully built commercialization partner for the biopharmaceutical, medical technology, and wellness industries....