But now along comes Benlysta (belimumab). It’s not a miracle lupus drug treatment by a long shot. For example, it doesn’t seem to help African-American patients, which is disappointing, since African-Americans are more likely to have the condition than people of other races. Additionally, research studies showed Benlysta to have only a 43 percent symptom reduction rate, compared with 34 percent for placebo. Still, it’s one more weapon in a limited arsenal against the destructiveness of lupus. Some patients have noted that they could reduce their dependence on steroids for symptom management, which would definitely be a good thing, since steroids have significant side effects in chronic users (including bone fragility and weight gain).
One of the reasons people are celebrating this new drug is the idea that, once one company gains approval for a drug targeted against a specific disease, other companies often jump on the bandwagon in an effort to produce competitors. This kind of competition can only help lupus sufferers, who are long overdue for some good news.The downside to the Benlysta story is the expense — currently about $35,000 per year. It’s given through an IV every 28 days.source