Dr. Cynthia Aranow, co-director of the program for autoimmune diseases and clinical research at the Feinstein Institute, who was involved in the Benlysta trials, calls the safety profile for the drug "excellent," especially in light of the current standard of care for lupus. Since Benlysta seems to allow for reduced doses of steroids, which carry numerous negative side effects, she said it might offer "a spectacular new option for lupus treatment."
But even now that it has been approved, Benlysta will likely work in tandem with other lupus medications, and since Benlysta was not tested on patients with severe lupus in which the kidneys are heavily affected, it will most likely be prescribed only to those with mild to moderate disease.
"It didn't work for all patients, but for those for whom it did, it did improve quality of life in treatment of what we call mild-moderate lupus," Belmont says.
Whether or not Benlysta will become the groundbreaking new treatment that many hope for, lupus experts were eager to see it approved.
"It's a long way from being a perfect drug, but I'll be interested to see if it can hold up as a usable drug," says Diamond.