Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly known as lupus
is an autoimmune disease in which healthy tissues get attacked by the immune
system. This causes chronic inflammation, pain, and damage throughout the body
Lupus symptoms vary across different patients, but the most
common ones include fever, joint pain, skin lesions, chest pain, and rashes on
the face or other parts of the body (1).
Patients suffering from Lupus usually have “flares”, in
which symptoms worsen at times and then come down to a lower level where they
stay for long period of time.
Epidemiology: There are currently more than 1.5 million Americans
suffering from lupus and each year 16,000 new cases get reported. About 90% of
all lupus patients are women between the ages of 14-44. Hormones could be an explanation
for the prevalence of Lupus in women. Lupus is much more common in African
American, Hispanic, and Asian women compared to Caucasian women (2).
There is no known cure for lupus, but multiple treatment
options are available to control various symptoms. Doctors usually customize
treatment for each patient depending on the symptoms severity of the disease. Nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to treat pain, swelling, and fever,
while Antimalarial drugs limit the risk of lupus flares. On the other hand, Corticosteroids are used against
inflammation and Immunosuppressant to suppress the immune system (3)
There is no one single test for lupus as symptoms fluctuate
at various stages of the disease. Doctors diagnose lupus by combining blood and
urine tests with signs and symptoms and physical examination. The laboratory
tests include red blood cells count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, protein
and red blood cells in urine, assessment of kidney and liver, and antinuclear
antibody (ANA) test. Imaging tests, which include chest X-ray and Echocardiogram
can also be used for diagnosis (4).
Multiple drugs are used to control different symptoms of
Lupus as disease shares a lot of symptoms with other indications. Anti-inflammatory
drugs are the most common ones followed by corticosteroids. Other immunosuppressant drugs are also used
and below is the chart that shows the revenue for different drugs for the year
Fig 1- Global revenue for Lupus treatment drugs (4).
Benlysta is the only approved drug specifically designed for
the treatment of Lupus. The FDA approved it in 2014 and revenue for 2016 was $377
million (5). Research conducted by Technavio predicts the global Lupus market
is expected to grow up to 3.2 billion by 2025 (6).