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November 13th, 2009
Less Lupus Flare-Ups Occur with Experimental New Drug

New research tested a new class of experimental drugs to target the disease process that comes with lupus. Benlysta was one of the most promising drugs to beat out typical treatment in the large clinical trial.

If the results of the research are accurate, Benlysta would become the first new treatment for lupus in over fifty years. The medication works by dampening the irregular immune signals, treating the immune system.

Lupus is a difficult disease that forces the immune system to attack the host’s own tissues, causing mass destruction in the joints, skin and other important organs.

For the study, the 865 patients studied were on a standard therapy system for lupus that includes steroids. Of the patients, one-third was given a high dose of Benlysta, one-third a lower dose, and the last one-third was given a placebo.

The findings were reported by Sandra V. Navarra, M.D, head of rheumatology at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. After a one year period, 58% of the high-dose patients experienced a large improvement in symptom severity, while 43% reported improvement from the placebo group.

Other benefits from Benlysta included, disease flare-ups that were less in number, fewer between, and less severe. Patients also had less exhaustion and a higher quality of life.
Benlysta was also shown to be more effective at reducing hair loss, skin rash, and pain then the placebo.

An important find, was that the benlysta patients depended less on steroids. “One of the most important goals of treatment is to get patients off steroids, which cause so many unforgivable side effects — bloating, weight gain, acne, high blood pressure, and others,” says Joan T. Merrill, MD, medical director of the Lupus Foundation of America.

Side effects to the study included headaches, muscle pain, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and influenza. All side effects were experienced by the three groups, and serious infections were only reported by 6% of the entire group.

If the drug continues to be found as a valid treatment, the researchers plan to submit it to FDA for approval.


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