JointHealth™ express   July 29, 2011

Health Canada approves new medication for lupus

Earlier this month Health Canada approved belimumab (Benlysta®), the first new treatment for systemic lupus erythematosus in almost 50 years.

According to a report published in The Medical Letter in June 2011, belimumab “can modestly reduce disease activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus” and can reduce disease flares, including severe disease flares. It may also help with inflammation so that corticosteroid use (e.g. prednisone) can be minimized.

Approximately 1 in 1,000 Canadians are diagnosed with lupus. It is known as “the disease of a thousand faces” because it can present itself in many ways, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Belimumab is the first medication designed specifically to treat lupus. Though not a “magic bullet”, it will prove to be a useful addition to the small arsenal of lupus medications currently available. Belimumab has not been studied in people with severe kidney or brain lupus.

The most common side effects during clinical trials of belimumab included nausea, diarrhea, and fever. Serious, but rare side effects were infusion reactions and anaphylactic reactions. Additionally, those with a history of depression were at a greater risk of experiencing depression, along with suicidal thoughts, while on the medication. However, overall, side effects were not a major problem.

To learn more about belimumab, check out this video produced last year as part of our series from the Ninth International Congress on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, held in Vancouver last year.

To view the Notice of Compliance, please click here and search for “Benlysta”.