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Lupus Treatment May Soon Take Leap Forward
Date:12/25/2010

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- For years now, doctors have made slow, incremental progress in the treatment of lupus, a chronic autoimmune condition that can wrack the body and seriously affect a person's health.

But researchers now are preparing for a potential major leap forward.

A new medication that could be an effective new treatment for the disease was endorsed in mid-November by an advisory panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended for approval. Though the FDA is not bound by its advisory committees' recommendations, it usually follows them.

"There is real optimism there may be a drug approved for the treatment of lupus for the first time in 54 years," said Dr. Mary Anne Dooley, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina Kidney Center.

Lupus primarily affects women. Nine out of 10 people who have lupus are women. It also appears to be more common among black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women than white women.

The disease causes the immune system to begin harming the organs and the systems of the body. "Your immune system becomes hyperactive, and, instead of defending you from infection, it attacks parts of your body," Dooley said.

According to Dooley and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the most common symptoms of lupus include:

  • A "butterfly" rash across the nose and cheeks.
  • Skin rashes elsewhere.
  • Skin photosensitivity.
  • Joint pains and stiffness.
  • Muscle aches and pain.
  • Hair loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever not linked to any other illness.
  • Anemia.
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering.

"Lupus primarily attacks the skin and the joints, but any organ can be affected," said Dr. Cynthia Aranow, an associate investigator with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at the North Shore-Long Is
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