4 New Medications for Lupus (Video)

Four new treatments for lupus including one in pill form

The medications available for treating lupus have stayed pretty much the same for several decades. But in the past few years, we’ve seen a breakthrough with targeted therapies—medicines that are directed at one little molecule in the immune system.

Watch this video to learn more about how lupus is treated:

The most significant new treatments

Instead of using the scissors approach like before, now we’ve got a scalpel. Doctors like me who treat lupus are hoping that these newer medications will have fewer side effects and be more effective.

  1. Belimumab, which is given intravenously, works on knocking out the white blood cells, called B lymphocytes, that make antibodies. It hasn’t been shown to be an effective treatment for lupus patients with kidney disease. But if you do not have kidney problems, you may see some benefit.
  2. Rituximab has been used in rheumatoid arthritis patients with good results, and it’s being studied for use in patients with lupus as well. It also knocks out B lymphocytes that produce antibodies. Lupus is a disease where trying to knock down the production of antibodies is important.
  3. Thalidomide and lenalidomide, which work on the immune system, are showing some promising effects on lupus that affects the skin. They’re FDA-approved for other conditions but are being used off label and in clinical trials for lupus patients. Part of the appeal is that these medications are taken as a pill rather than an injection, unlike similar drugs for joint problems.
  4. Tofacitnib, which has been shown to slow joint damage,  was recently approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis patients. There’s hope that it will help lupus patients as well.

Belimumab is currently FDA-approved for lupus. The others are being studied for their effectiveness in lupus patients. If other treatments haven’t worked for you, you can talk to your doctor about using the medication off-label or taking part in a clinical trial.

Watch this video to learn more about living with lupus:


Howard Smith, MD

Howard Smith, MD, is Staff Rheumatologist at Cleveland Clinic and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.
  • Ohmy Shrunkenhead

    How many others have the issue of not being able to tolerate sun at all? Even indirect exposure (such as being covered and veiled in the backseat of a car) causes complete brain fog and a few days of elevated immune activity. A single hour of semi-direct sun will generate a flare that may last for months. So sunblock and reflective clothing don’t cut it in my case!

    • Jared

      I’m the same way. It sucks…

      • Guest

        I commiserate… It’s like being a vampire with no ‘sparkly’ benefits. 😉

  • Avrie

    I have problem tolerating heat, humidity & sun. I love the beach & the summer but have to be really careful exposing myself to it. I always seem to have flare ups in summer but few if any in cool weather. One of the reasons is that heat uses up Prednisone faster so either an immune suppressor or increased Prednisone may decrease flares in summer.

  • Elisa Blanes

    Hi I will like to know when I go out shopping and get some sun from the car to the store and viceversa I start having problem walking . The problem waking it’s very big my legs can’t move. That pain also I have it in cold places. I have my lupus for 8 years. The first two years I have mobility problems but now I was okay and these pain came back. Can you help me.