Medications for Lupus
Medications commonly used to treat lupus include the following:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medicines can help treat pain, swelling, and fever associated with lupus. Common over-the-counter NSAIDs include Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen). Stronger NSAIDs are available with a prescription.
- Antimalarial medicines: Drugs typically used to treat malaria may help control lupus symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, rashes, and mouth sores. Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) is a common antimalarial drug used to treat lupus.
- Corticosteroids: These medicines can help control inflammation, but they may cause long-term side effects such as weight gain, thinning of bones, high blood pressure, diabetes, easy bruising, and infection. Deltasone (prednisone) is a corticosteroid that’s commonly prescribed for lupus.
- Immunosuppressants: These drugs suppress the immune system, which is the source of the inflammation associated with lupus. Immunosuppressants can cause serious side effects, including raising the risks of cancer, liver damage, and suppressing the bone marrow’s functioning (and thereby increasing the risk of infection). Common immunosuppressants include Imuran (azathioprine), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), CellCept (mycophenolate), Arava (leflunomide), Sandimmune and Neoral (cyclosporine), and Trexall (methotrexate).
- Biologics: These newer drugs are already approved for other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Examples include Rituxan (rituximab) and Orencia (abatacept). In 2011, the biologic drug Benlysta (belimumab) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat lupus in certain cases. It was the first new drug approved for lupus since 1955.
Newer treatments, including stem cell transplantation and immunoablation (a therapy that uses powerful drugs to wipe out a damaged immune system), are currently being studied as options for people with lupus.