Meeting the unmet needs of SLE

Shaping the future — working to advance the development of biologic therapies

Categories: For Healthcare Professionals, [Lupus, Biologic therapies, Drug development]

It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have lupus, and at least 5 million people worldwide have the disease. 

During the past half-century, much progress has been made toward the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In particular, the introduction of corticosteroids and immune suppressive therapy played a key role in drastically reducing mortality due to active SLE. Because of this, the unmet needs for patients with SLE have changed just as drastically. The impact of comorbidities (e.g. cardiovascular disease) on patients’ lives has become increasingly important, as has the control of difficult-to-treat SLE symptoms (e.g. fatigue), while management of refractory SLE remains challenging. 

Over the past few years, important efforts have been made toward the development of biologic therapies to treat refractory cases of SLE. In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first biologic therapy for SLE, belimumab (a monoclonal antibody), which was also the first new drug approved for lupus since 1955. 

Following the approval of belimumab, significant advances have been made in the development of biologic therapies, and the number of biologic agents in the SLE drug pipeline has substantially increased. Our improved understanding of the immunopathological mechanisms underlying SLE has allowed us to develop biologic agents against specific targets in the disease process. These include, but are not limited to, biologic agents that inactivate or destroy B cells, inhibit the B-cell activating factor (BAFF), inhibit T-cell activation, interfere with T-cell functions, or decrease the production of interferon alpha (IFN-α). 

Biologic therapies have shown great promise in treating refractory SLE, but many potential new drugs are still undergoing clinical development and some did not show effectiveness when tested in large clinical trials. Thus, the SLE clinical research field remains open to continuous discovery. You can help by referring your patients to IQVIA-managed lupus clinical trials. contains updates on clinical trials and recent medical advances. You can register to receive news about SLE and related IQVIA clinical trials or find trials that might interest your patients. Also, see Referring your patients into clinical trials to read about why and how you should refer patients.


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