First lupus drug in half a century approved

A therapeutic antibody is the first success in a wave of experimental therapies aimed at tackling the autoimmune disease.

( - For more than 50 years, the autoimmune disease lupus has confounded drug developers. But a new therapy finally broke through that barrier yesterday when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of Benlysta (belimumab) for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus.

The greatly anticipated move heralded a step forward not only for belimumab's developers, but also for the many other experimental lupus therapies hot on the trail. "It's a very exciting time in lupus," says Richard Furie, a rheumatologist at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, who has conducted clinical trials of belimumab. "There's an awful lot of activity right now."