The Lupus Drug Gold Mine

After decades of dead ends scientists find new treatments.

Lupus has puzzled doctors since it was identified in the 1800s. For unknown reasons, the body makes antibodies against itself. Symptoms--ranging from fever to rashes to joint pain to kidney damage--come and go unpredictably. The average lupus patient waits four years and sees three doctors before getting an accurate diagnosis. There have been no new drugs in 50 years.

This dismal situation may be about to change with the first generation of targeted lupus drugs winding their way through human trials. The drugs aim to short-circuit the abnormal antibody activity that drives the disease, without broadly suppressing the immune system the way existing treatments (such as oral steroids) do.