Are Biologics the Right Treatment For My Lupus?

If you have lupus, you know it’s a chronic illness that is difficult to diagnose and treat because its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases.

Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans, and each patient experiences the disease differently, making finding effective treatment options challenging. Additionally, traditional drugs can come with serious adverse effects.

However, a new class of drugs called biologics offers hope to countless patients by providing a better chance for remission.

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Biologics and Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation in the body. In healthy immune systems, T and B cells protect the body by attacking foreign substances that invade it. However, T and B cells become hyperactive in people with lupus and start attacking different body parts, including joints, blood vessels, skin, and organs.

Biologic drugs interfere with that self-destructive pattern by helping to lower T cell and B cell activity. Unlike conventional lupus treatments like NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants, biologics are intravenous medications that only suppress the parts of your immune system that trigger inflammation.

Biologics are not for everyone, but they are a good option for patients who struggle to take oral medications and for those who haven’t found sufficient relief from taking traditional medications.

The Role of Biologics in Treating Lupus

Biologics Used in The Treatment of Lupus

There are currently two FDA-approved biologic medications for the treatment of lupus.

Benlysta (belimumab) – This monoclonal antibody medication approved in 2011 treats patients with active systemic lupus erythematosus or active lupus nephritis (lupus that causes kidney inflammation). Benlysta targets a protein called B lymphocyte stimulator, which triggers inflammation in people with lupus. This medication is safe for patients as young as five years old.

Although Benlysta performs best when taken with other traditional drugs like immunosuppressants and NSAIDs, it can reduce the need for corticosteroids.

Saphnelo (anifrolumab-fnia)Approved in 2021, Saphnelo is the newest biologic designed to treat lupus. Like Benlysta, Saphnelo is also a monoclonal antibody that targets cytokine. This biologic therapy reduces disease activity across different body parts and organs susceptible to damage from lupus.

Saphnelo treats adults with moderate to severe systemic lupus erythematosus and works best when used in conjunction with other conventional medicines.

Are Biologics Suitable for You?

If you struggle to manage your lupus with traditional medications, your doctor may recommend biologic therapy.

Although not a cure, biologics provide many benefits and can help reduce symptom flare-ups and improve quality of life.

While most patients tolerate biologic therapy, these medications are not for everyone, including

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Patients with heart disease
  • Cancer patients
  • People who have a scheduled vaccination
  • Patients with an active or recurring infection
  • You are allergic to anifrolumab-fnia or belimumab
  • Those already receiving other biologic medications

If you are curious whether biologic infusion therapy can help you manage your lupus, speak to your doctor.

Your healthcare team will evaluate your disease progression and related issues to determine if biologic drugs are viable treatment options.

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