The Food and Drug Administration recently announced their approval of a drug that targets the symptoms of lupus, marking the newest development in treatment of the disease in over 50 years.
According to the Associated Press, Human Genomes Inc. is the developer of Benlysta, a new drug that relieves pain caused by lupus, a potentially fatal disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own cells. The drug will be marketed with Glaxosmith Kline.
The drug’s developer claims that an estimated 200,000 people suffering from lupus could benefit from the new drug. But medical experts said that Benalysta is not the immediate cure for many people with the ailment, as it only worked for 35 percent of North American patients and was ineffective for those with severe cases.
Tests on the drug also produced unsuccessful results among African-Americans, who are disproportionately impacted by lupus. According to the Center for Disease Control, lupus, which often affects females, is three times more common in Black women than in White women.
Additionally, Black women develop the disease at an earlier age than people of other races and experience more severe organ problems.
As a result of the drug’s ineffectiveness on Blacks, developers have agreed to conduct an additional study to further evaluate the safety and effectiveness of Benlysta, according to an FDA News release. According to BlackAmericaWeb.com, too few Blacks were present in the first round of clinical trials to provide thorough evidence of its effectiveness.
“It’s a big market if they can treat it,” Dr. Jianmang Wu, a University of Minnesota professor told BlackAmericaWeb. “I don’t think the drug company doesn’t want to treat a specific ethnicity. But lupus is very, very difficult to study.
Experts say that the release of the drug could draw more interest in the research of the elusive ailment.
“It will send out the message that it’s possible to conduct a successful clinical trial in lupus and that’s tremendously important to keep the pharmaceutical industry interested in the disease,” Dr. Betty Diamond, a lupus researcher at the Feinstein Institute in New York, told the AP.
According to the CDC, systemic lupus affects between 322,000 and 1 million people in the U.S. Symptoms can range from severe joint and muscle pain, extreme exhaustion, fevers, and skin rashes to organ failure and death.