Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Benlysta for Lupus...

It's the first drug for Lupus in just over 50 years. Belimumab, more commonly known for it's trade name of Benlysta, is getting Lupus patients excited.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease which can effect anyone at any age and at anytime. Although, it is statistically more prevalent in women, men do get it too. Just ask me. I was diagnosed with it back in 1997. Though, the list of symptoms can range from: inflamed lungs, fatigue, fevers, hair loss, rashes, brain damage, kidney damage, mouth sores, sensitivity to sunlight, swollen lymph nodes, swollen joints, and a few others, the diagnosis cannot be easy. These symptoms can mimic a host of other autoimmune diseases too. For me, it was fatigue, brutal fevers, swollen and painful joints through out my body, and some kidney damage. Lupus can be genetically handed down from one generation to another, but this was not the situation in my case. The cause of it was unknown and that is how it is the majority of the time. Environment? Foods? Genetics? Lifestyle? Household cleaning products? Geographic location? Statistics do also show both African American and Asian races are more likely to contract Lupus. Why? That is still unknown.

So, you're asking what does this new "wonder drug" do for Lupus patients? Well, first Benlysta is given on an out patient prescription basis only. No over night hospital stays needed. Currently, it is not offered orally. It is given via an IV infusion that takes about two hours. Benlysta lowers (kills some, not all) the number of "autoreactive B cells" in your body. You see, it is these cells that will eventually form "autoantibodies". These autoantibody cells end up not recognizing your body and it's organs. What's next is your immune system begins to do what it's job is and that is to fight off foreign things. Yep, it becomes confused and then begins to turn against YOU and starts attacking your body. Initially it's inflammation, as with all autoimmune diseases, but then the inflammation ends up causing permanent damage over time. I'll repeat that. Permanent damage. So, Benlysta lowers the amount of autoreactive B cells in your body. The desired result then are the symptoms of Lupus become less prevalent, less threatening, less damaging, and hopefully over time, puts the disease in remission. With the disease then in remission, you could say "mission accomplished". Of course that is if all goes well for which we know there are never any guarantees with any drug. But, wait one minute. As anyone that has Lupus, or any other disease, that means to keep the disease in remission, you still need to treat your body right. Control your stress, lightly exercise, minimize the alcohol, no smoking, get a good nights sleep, and get the proper nutrition. With out these things, you will be right back at square one and starting the fight over again.

Now of course since Benlysta is a drug, there are some potential side effects to be noted. These may include: various infections, sore throat, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, itching, diarrhea, depression, trouble sleeping, thoughts of suicide, low blood pressure, headaches, vomiting, and even an allergic death. Yep, even the wonder drug for Lupus can be far from perfect for some patients.

To conclude on a good note, Benlysta is also being tried on Rheumatoid Arthritis patients and is showing promising results. More will be known by the end of 2012. But for now, let's take that as encouraging news for RA patients.

Benlysta Definition Link
Benlysta Drug Mfg's Link 
Definition of Lupus Video
Patient's 2nd Benlysta IV Video

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