GENERIC NAME: belimumab
BRAND NAME: Benlysta
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Belimumab is a synthetic (man-made) injectable antibody that reduces the activity of immune cells called B-cells in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is an inflammatory autoimmune disease, which means that the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and causes inflammation. Parts of the body affected by SLE include the heart, skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Common symptoms include rash, fever, chest pain, hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, and sensitivity to light.
One type of immune cell that is involved in the immune attack in SLE is the B-cell. One of the functions of B-cells is to produce antibodies, proteins that the body usually produces to fight infection. The B-cells in SLE produce antibodies that may be involved in the autoimmune attack in SLE. Belimumab blocks the action of B-cell (lymphocyte) stimulator (BLyS) protein, which B-cells require for survival. By blocking BLys, belimumab reduces the number of B-cells available to produce antibodies that contribute to SLE. In clinical studies, belimumab-treated patients experienced less activity of their SLE than those who received other SLE therapies. Belimumab was approved by the FDA in March 2011.
PRESCRIBED FOR: Belimumab is used for the treatment of adults with active, antibody-positive SLE who are receiving other treatments for SLE. It has not been evaluated in patients with severe active inflammation of the kidney (nephritis) or the central nervous system (brain and spinal chord).
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