FDA approves first lupus drug since 1955

Apr 18, 2011

Lupus patients now have more medication options, as the FDA has approved a new drug for the ailment.

Prospects may be up and life insurance rates down for lupus patients, as the Food and Drug Administration has approved of the first new drug in more than 50 years to fight the autoimmune disease.

The drug, known as Benlysta, is designed to target a protein that may reduce the number of abnormal B cells in lupus patients, which doctors believe may be the root of the ailment. Symptoms of the disease usually appear between the ages of 15 and 44 and include joint pain or swelling, fever, chest pain, hair loss and fatigue.

Eric Greidinger, the chief of rheumatology and immunology at the University of Miami, told WebMD that Benlysta can help patients suffering from persistently active lupus reduce their steroid dosage, exposing them to fewer side effects. Standard therapy for lupus includes corticosteroids, antimalarial drugs, immunosuppressive agents and anti-inflammatory drugs, according to the website.

About 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. The disease primarily affects women, and is two to three times more prevalent among those of color.

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