News / USA

US Approves 1st New Lupus Drug in 50 Years

First medication ever developed specifically for the autoimmune disorder

Human Genome Sciences' Barry Labinger (right) says his company has  developed an anti-lupus drug that directly targets the autoimmune disorder.
Human Genome Sciences' Barry Labinger (right) says his company has developed an anti-lupus drug that directly targets the autoimmune disorder.

Multimedia

Vidushi Sinha

The first new drug to treat lupus in a half century  - and the first ever specifically developed to treat the autoimmune disorder - is heading to market in the United States. Under the trade name Benlysta, it is the first federally-approved drug to be derived from genomics, the study of genes and their functions.

Eva Gaskin has been married for 17 years. But one day four years ago, she suddenly was unable to recognize her husband, and became convinced that he had killed her family. Doctors said these strange mental episodes were symptoms of lupus cerebritis, which caused inflammation in her brain tissues.

"I had anxiety. I had insomnia," says Gaskin. "I had lots of things going on that we really did not understand and that was very frightening for my family until I got on the proper treatment, and those kinds of issues started to subside. But at first it was very scary.”

Eva Gaskin, who suffers from lupus, is excited that there is a new medicine designed specifically to treat the disease.
Eva Gaskin, who suffers from lupus, is excited that there is a new medicine designed specifically to treat the disease.

The brain inflammation that made Eva see her husband as a stranger and a killer soon moved to her lungs, and her breathing became painful. Lupus is a potentially fatal disease. It develops when the body's protector cells stop differentiating between healthy cells and bacteria. As a result, the immune system starts attacking its own body instead of protecting it from bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Until now, lupus sufferers have treated their varied symptoms - from mental disorders to skin rashes and painful joints - with a combination of drugs, including painkillers, steroids and anti-malarial medicines. Aside from being insufficient, these treatments have also carried the risk of toxicity.

But now, for the first time in 50 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Adminsitration has approved a new drug specifically to treat lupus.

“It’s so exciting to see that a drug is coming out that targeted specifically for lupus patients because in the past we have been taking drugs that have been found helpful but not specifically for us,” says Gaskin.

Benlysta also represents a medical milestone. Its American developer, Human Genome Sciences, calls it the first drug derived from the genetic mapping of human proteins.

Company vice-president Barry Labinger says the firm is proud of the fact that after so many years of research, development, and clinical trials, they finally have an anti-lupus drug that directly targets the autoimmune disorder.

“Benlysta works on the immune system by blocking a part of the immune system that becomes over-active in the presence of autoimmune disease," says Labinger. "Autoimmnue disease in particular tends to happen far more frequently in women and people of color and so Benlysta turns out to be an important drug for those patients, as well as a broader population for anybody who has lupus.”

Lupus affects women nine times more than it does men. And it occurs disproportionately in African-American, Hispanic and Asian populations.

Labinger says Benlysta is not a miracle drug, and it's not for everyone. “It is a very important step forward. There is room for more than one treatment for lupus patients over time and we hope that this is a first step towards a number of advances for patients with lupus.”

Human Genome Sciences will soon begin a large study of African-American lupus patients.

In the meantime, lupus sufferer Eva Gaskin says her condition is stable for now, but she's relieved she has Benlysta to fall back on if her lupus should flare up again.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitcheni
X
September 22, 2014 11:42 AM
With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid