Positive Results for Human Genome’s Lupus Drug Benlysta

pillsmoneyBiotechnology company Human Genome Sciences reported that its drug candidate Benlysta reduced symptoms of lupus in a long-term clinical trial. The four-year Phase II study showed that Benlysta (also known as belimumab) decreased the severity and frequency of flare-ups in patients with a form of the disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Benlysta was generally well-tolerated and showed no decrease in efficacy over time. Shares of Rockville, MD-based Human Genome jumped over 20 percent in premarket trading on Thursday. However, Reuters reports that some analysts are still cautious about the future of Benlysta. Given the erratic nature of SLE, researchers may have difficulty determining the long-term effectiveness of any treatment.

 SLE is the most common form of lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can attack any part of the body. Some of the more serious complications of SLE include inflammation of the kidneys, pulmonary hypertension, inflammation of the nervous system and brain (possibly leading to stroke), and coronary artery disease. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from lupus, with 16,000 new cases reported annually. Women of childbearing age are most likely to develop the disease, although it can strike anyone.

Other companies developing pharmaceuticals to treat lupus include Genelabs Technologies, Watson Pharmaceuticals, VLST Corporation, and La Jolla Pharmaceutical Company. Pittsburgh-based StageMark is working on diagnostic and monitoring solutions for autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Accordant Health Services of Greensboro, NC, offers disease management programs to patients suffering from lupus and other chronic conditions.

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