In early May 2021, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline shared that its therapy Benlysta (belimumab) was approved by the European Commission (EC) for expanded use in adult patients with lupus nephritis (LN). The therapy was already approved for use in both pediatric and adult patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) as of October 2019. Altogether, the expanded use is designed to facilitate intravenously or subcutaneously administered Benlysta in conjunction with other immunosuppressants.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, Benlysta is:
a human monoclonal antibody that specifically recognizes and blocks the biological activity of B-lymphocyte stimulator, or BLyS® (pronounced bliss), a naturally occurring protein which was discovered by scientists at Human Genome Sciences (HGS). Elevated levels of BLyS prolong the survival of B cells which can contribute to the production of autoantibodies – antibodies that target the body’s own tissues.
Prior studies have shown that Benlysta is beneficial for patients with lupus nephritis. In addition to reducing autoantibodies, Benlysta also improved renal function and prevented disease progression. In fact, it reduced the risk of renal issues by nearly 50%.
Since Benlysta has the opportunity to help patients reach remission, and lowers the risk of progressing to end-stage kidney disease, it offers significant benefit to patients throughout Europe.
Altogether, lupus nephritis is a complication of systemic lupus erythematosus (“lupus”) which causes kidney inflammation. Lupus, an autoimmune disorder, causes the body to mistakenly attack itself using autoantibodies. In lupus nephritis, these attack areas of the kidney designed to filter out waste. An estimated 50% of adult patients and 80% of pediatric patients with lupus will develop lupus nephritis. Without management, lupus nephritis can lead to kidney disease, damage, or failure. Typically, lupus affects females more than males, particularly during childbearing years. Being of Black, Asian, or Hispanic/Latinx descent also increases your chance of having lupus nephritis. Symptoms include:
- Proteinuria (excess protein in the urine)
- High blood pressure
- Dark, foamy, and/or bloody urine
- Swelling in the lower extremities
- Joint and muscle pain
- Unexplained fever
- Joint inflammation
- Red butterfly-shaped rash on the face
- Unintended weight gain
- More frequent nighttime urination
Learn more about lupus nephritis here.