Human Genome drug Benlysta may cost $20,000 a year

Jenny Decker RN's picture

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a very complicated disease. It affects the body’s immune system, involving the body’s organs, kidneys, brain, lungs, joints, blood, and skin. In fact, some experts believe that it may be as many as five different diseases, writes the Wall Street Journal. Lupus is difficult to treat because of the various signs and symptoms associated with the disorder. The company Human Genome has developed a drug called Benlysta. If this drug is approved by the FDA, it may cost patients $20,000 a year.

SLE is an uncommon disease, affecting anywhere between 4 and 40 people in 100,000, with the occurrence being higher in blacks, according to one study done by the Mayo Clinic. Delayed diagnosis is frequent in lupus due to the variable presentations of the disease. This also makes treating lupus difficult. Human Genome will possibly be the first drug approved for lupus in over 40 years.

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Lupus is called the woman’s disease as it occurs in women 9 out of 10 cases. For this reason, lupus has not been studied widely, making lupus even more elusive. However, with more advances in immunology, researchers are beginning to understand how lupus works. This makes it easier for researchers to determine how to attack the cause of systemic lupus erythematosus.

Human Genome expects that sales will be way up with the approval of Benlysta, as much as $7 billion a year if the drug is taken by 50,000 patients, writes Reuters. The drug has been determined to be safe for long term use, so far. Human Genome is now awaiting FDA approval. The drug should be out on the market at the earliest, late 2010.

Some of the symptoms of SLE are fatigue, poor circulation causing blue hands known as Raynaud’s Syndrome, and skin rashes that come and go, especially the famous butterfly rash over the nose and cheeks. Lupus can kill a person after years of suffering from the disease.

Lupus has been treated a number of different ways. High doses of steroids for short periods of time to decrease inflammation in severe cases is commonly done. Sometimes chemotherapy is given in order to clear out the immune system. Chemotherapy and steroids can be toxic and make the person more vulnerable to outside infections. The Human Genome drug Benlysta may just be a real breakthrough in the treatment of lupus.