The incurable and often-disabling condition strikes different patients in differing ways, making it difficult to screen and diagnosis. Lupus involves a hyperactive immune system that assaults otherwise healthy organs, such as the kidney, brain, heart, lungs and skin, as well as joints and blood.
According to Simon, patients typically experience fatigue and a general malaise, while further plagued by skin rashes and sensitivity to sunlight. Arthritis affects 90 percent of lupus patients, while 50 percent face serious kidney disease. Alongside respiratory complications, as many as one-third of patients develop cardiovascular complications.
The current standard of treatment typically involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-malarials and steroids.
Immunosuppressive medications -- such as azathioprine and cyclosporine -- are also used to dampen an immune system gone haywire. However, such regimens, while effective, can provoke severe side effects.
Conference attendees said that, until very recently, doctors and patients have been stuck in a treatment rut that has left them with few alternative prospects by way of treatment development.
"There hasn't been a new therapy approved for the treatment of lupus in over 40 years," Dr. Robert S. Katz, a rheumatologist with RPSLMC, said during the teleconference.
The problem, noted Simon, is that for many years, lupus was handled like an "orphan" disease, with the pharmaceutical industry largely ignoring it because of its relative rarity and the fear of not making a profitable return on drug-development costs.
This, despite the fact that more Americans are diagnosed with lupus than with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, or AIDS, LRI statistics indicate.
But the lupus research scene has underg
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