The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) recently completed their assessment of belimumab (Benlysta) as a treatment for active auto-antibody positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We are pleased to report that they have recommended the treatment as an option to be added to standard therapy for some patients aged five years and older with a high degree of disease activity.
What is belimumab (Benlysta)?
Belimumab, which is also known by the trade name Benlysta, is a type of drug called a biological therapy. It was the first newly developed treatment for lupus in over 50 years, created by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
In lupus, the immune system is dysfunctional and produces harmful antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues. Belimumab works by reducing the activity of a type of white blood cell, called B-cells, that produce these antibodies. This reduces the inflammation that causes the symptoms of lupus.
Like all medications, there are possible risks and side-effects associated with belimumab. Your doctor should discuss these with you before beginning any course of treatment.
Belimumab is taken in addition to other treatment for lupus and is either administered as an intravenous infusion, or sub-cutaneous injection (which can be self-administered).
Who can have belimumab (Benlysta)?
You will not be offered belimumab if:
- your lupus isn’t active.
- you haven’t tried other treatments appropriate for your condition first (standard therapy).
The new recommendation from SMC is for belimumab to be offered if:
- you are positive for at least one serological biomarker (positive anti-dsDNA or low complement)
- you have high disease activity despite standard therapy (defined as a SELENA-SLEDAI score of 10 or more)
The full Final Appraisal Document from SMC is available to read HERE. This document provides full details of their recommendation, including the rationale for reaching their decision.