First new lupus drug in 50 years

March 10, 2011 at 6:12 PM

LA JOLLA, Calif., March 10 (UPI) -- The drug Benlysta, or belimumab, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the most common type of lupus.

Dr. Richard A. Lerner, president of Scripps Research, said Benlysta, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Human Genome Sciences, is the first new drug treatment for lupus in 50 years.

"I am deeply gratified that our scientific findings have proven so valuable to drug discovery," Lerner said in a statement. "This development underlines the importance of basic academic science in laying important groundwork for life-saving medical advances."

The drug is approved for systemic lupus erythematosus -- a chronic, life-threatening inflammatory disease affecting the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart and lungs.

Benlysta targets a specific protein -- B-lymphocyte stimulator -- involved in stimulating the "autoantibodies" causing lupus and certain other autoimmune disorders, Lerner said.

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