Lupus drug approved by Health Canada

A new lupus treatment, Benlystatm, has been approved for use in Canada.

A new lupus treatment has been approved for use in Canada.

Health Canada recently gave regulatory approval for Benlystatm or belimumab. It is the first new treatment for systematic lupus erythematosus or SLE to become available in almost 50 years, GlaxoSmithKline Inc. and Human Genome Sciences announced Tuesday. 
Rowena Rodriguez, 32, of Toronto says the many symptoms of lupus have turned her body into a battlefield. (Canadian Press)

Lupus is an autoimmune disease with no known cause or cure that most often affects women aged 15 to 45.

In SLE, T-cells in the body's immune system don't work properly. The immune system attacks the body's own tissues and organs such as the kidneys, lungs, heart, blood cells, skin, and the brain.

Common symptoms may include extreme fatigue, painful and swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rashes and kidney problems.

Lupus affects one in 1,000 Canadian men, women and children, according to the national advocacy group Lupus Canada, which welcomed the announcement.

The two companies that developed and commercialized the drug said it could be available to patients in Canada in September.

The safety and effectiveness of the drug have not been evaluated in patients with severe active lupus nephritis or severe active central nervous system lupus, the companies said.