Sketch an Itch Draws Attention to Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU)

  • Canadian CIU patients are itching for a voice! Sketch an Itch is an artistic, visual, interpretation of people's stories which scratch the surface of CIU's impact
  • CIU, is a severe and distressing skin condition characterized by red, swollen, itchy and sometimes painful hives or wheals on the skin that spontaneously present and reoccur for more than six weeks.1,2,3
  • Women suffer from urticaria nearly twice as much as men do and the peak age of incidence is between 20 and 40 years4

DORVAL,QC, Nov. 4, 2015 /CNW/ - To raise awareness and understanding of chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. announces the launch of the Sketch an Itch campaign. CIU is a fairly unknown disease, leaving patients itching for a voice and a community to share their experiences with. The campaign provides patients a platform to share their personal experience with CIU by scratching the surface of their journey with a visual representation of their story, created by a professional artist.  

CIU not only impacts patients physically, but can also impact their mental health with some patients suffering from social isolation, depression and sleep deprivation1,2,4. With limited support available, Sketch an Itch wishes to provide a safe space for people living with the skin disease to share their stories – in their own word3s – and provide encouragement and support by "heart-ing" stories they find inspiring or relatable. Through social sharing, they can learn how others are managing their CIU, while drawing attention to the skin disease1.

Kayla Creighton, a Sketch an Itch ambassador, has lived with CIU since the age of six and was often bullied because other students didn't understand the condition. "Outside of the physical aspects of CIU, my emotional health has been impacted too. Even after explaining what CIU was, the teasing didn't stop. A picture says a thousand words, and that's why the Sketch an Itch program is a great way to bring awareness to this skin disease. We are not alone and this is a powerful, visual, way for our voices to be heard and seen."

As the communal voice grows stronger, Canadians will better understand CIU and the impact it has on patients' daily lives. There will be a full recap of the Sketch an Itch program, including the sketches and written submissions, available in December on, a disease awareness website dedicated to patients living with CIU.

About CIU

Also referred as chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU), CIU is a severe and distressing skin condition characterized by red, swollen, itchy and sometimes painful hives or wheals on the skin that spontaneously present and reoccur for more than six weeks.1,2,3

At any given time, the prevalence of chronic urticaria (CU) is up to 1% of the world's population.4 Up to 40% of CIU patients also experience concomitant angioedema, a swelling in the deep layers of the skin.5 Disfigurement caused by angioedema and discomfort associated with this disorder can often pose long-term hardship for patients and their families.6

CIU is described as a very distressing and unpredictable disease. Patients experience occupational disabilities, depression, lack of sleep, fatigue, pain, social isolation, and a feeling of lack of control over their lives which causes a significant negative impact on their daily functioning, thus drastically lowering their quality of life.4,7  The majority of studies showed that women suffer from urticaria nearly twice as much as men do and that the peak incidence is reported between 20 and 40 years which means that patients are affected in the prime of both their work and family lives.4

Although 6 weeks' duration is the requirement to be considered chronic8, CIU can persist for years: average duration of CIU is between 1 to 5 years but longer disease duration can occur in patients with more severe disease or in patients with concurrent angioedema among other factors.4 The chronic nature of CIU will significantly impact a person's life as it can potentially cause experiencing major disability, emotional distress and decreased productivity.8

CIU also results in a considerable economic burden. Although most patients with CIU are relatively young and otherwise healthy, their health care costs can be substantial. Medication and outpatient visits (direct costs), and lost productivity due to absence from work (indirect costs) are major cost drivers for CIU and increase with disease severity.9,10

About Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., a leader in the healthcare field, is committed to the discovery, development and marketing of innovative products to improve the well-being of all Canadians. In 2014, the company invested $76 million in research and development in Canada. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. employs approximately 700 people in Canada. For further information, please consult

About Novartis

Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care and cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2014, the Group achieved net sales of USD 58.0 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.9 billion (USD 9.6 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 120,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are available in more than 180 countries around the world. For more information, please visit


  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) website. "Chronic Urticaria (Hives).
    " Accessed May 2015.
  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) website. "Skin Allergy Overview." Accessed May 2015.
  3. Maurer M, Rosén K, Hsieh HJ, et al. Omalizumab for the treatment of chronic idiopathic or spontaneous urticaria. NEJM. 2013; 368(10):924-35.
  4. Maurer M, Weller K, Bindslev-Jensen C, et al. Unmet clinical needs in chronic spontaneous urticaria. A GA2LEN task force report. Allergy. 2011;66:317-330.
  5. Kanani A, Schellenberg R, Warrington R. Urticaria and angioedema. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2011; 7(suppl 1):S9.
  6. Ben-Shoshan M, Blinderman I, Raz A. Psychosocial factors and chronic spontaneous urticaria: a systematic review. Allergy 2013; 68: 131-141.
  7. O'Donnell BF et al. The impact of chronic urticaria on the quality of life. Br J Dermatol. 1997; 136(2): 197–201.
  8. Sussman G, Hébert J, Barron C, et al. Real-life experiences with omalizumab for the treatment of chronic urticaria, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2014; 170-174.
  9. Zazzali JL, Broder MS, Chang E, Chiu MW, Hogan DJ. Cost, utilization, and patterns of medication use associated with chronic idiopathic urticaria. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012;108:98-102.
  10. Delong LK, Culler SD, Saini SS, Beck LA, Chen SC. Annual direct and indirect health care costs of chronic idiopathic urticaria: a cost analysis of 50 nonimmunosuppressed patients. Arch Dermatol. 2008;144:35-9.

SOURCE Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

For further information: Novartis Media Relations: Elizabeth Tanguay, Manager, External Communications, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. , +1 514 633-7873,; Rob McEwan, Vice President, Argyle Public Relationships, + 1 416 968-7311 ext. 242,

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