-- Scott Roberts
THURSDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- Benlysta (belimumab) has
been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat
lupus, the first medication sanctioned for the condition in the
United States since 1955.
The injected drug targets B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS)
protein, which is believed to play a role in abnormal B cells
thought to characterize lupus, the agency said in a news release.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's
disease-fighting system attacks healthy tissue. The condition
disproportionally affects women, usually aged 15 to 44. Symptoms
commonly include joint pain and swelling, sensitivity to light,
fever, chest pain, hair loss and fatigue.
In addition to the joints, lupus can affect the skin, kidneys,
lungs, heart and brain. As many as 1.5 million people in the United
States have the disease, although estimates vary widely, the FDA
said. Black women have a three times higher incidence of the
disease than Caucasian women.
The safety and effectiveness of Benlysta were established in a
pair of clinical studies involving 1,684 people. Those treated with
Benlysta had fewer symptoms than those who took a non-medicinal
placebo, and the results suggested that those who took the drug
also were less likely to have severe lupus flares, the agency
Common side effects of the drug included nausea, diarrhea and
Blacks and people of African heritage didn't respond to the new
drug, and the FDA said it ordered Benlysta's manufacturer to
conduct additional studies involving these patients.
Benlysta was developed by Human Genome Sciences, based in
Rockville, Md., and will be co-marketed by Philadelphia-based
To learn more about lupus, visit the
Lupus Foundation of America.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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