Benlysta 101 - questions and answers

Kudos to Human Genome Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline for their efforts to educate the lupus community on Benlysta, their new lupus drug that got FDA approval last year. Since the drug became available, they've published a ton of patient-friendly information on the drug, some of which I'd like to share with you here. This came to me in an email, via a program they call "Benlysta Connect". I call it kind of a 'Benlysta 101" - more questions and answers like those listed below can be found here!


Why is the drug given as an infusion?

Your doctors may have explained to you that BENLYSTA is an intravenous infusion (also known as an IV). You may be wondering why BENLYSTA can’t be taken as a pill. It’s because BENLYSTA is a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody. This type of drug would be broken down in the stomach and lose its effectiveness. 

How does the infusion process work?
Here’s a look at the infusion process:
Before the infusion: When you arrive for treatment, a nurse may ask questions about how you are feeling and take your vital signs (temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure). In some cases, you may receive medications prior to the BENLYSTA infusion, such as an antihistamine, to help reduce your chance of having an allergic reaction. It is not known if these medications will help reduce the chance of an allergic reaction to BENLYSTA.
During the infusion: When the IV line is inserted, you may feel some pain or discomfort.
After the infusion: You may feel some discomfort where the IV line was inserted. That should go away within a few hours. If you took an antihistamine, you may feel drowsy. It's important that you have someone drive you home, especially if you are drowsy. Depending on how you feel, you may be able to return to your usual activities. Contact your healthcare professional if you don’t feel well or have soreness or tenderness at the infusion site that does not go away.
Where do you get the infusion?

There are several locations for infusion treatments, including a doctor’s office, an infusion center, and infusion clinics within hospitals. An infusion location may have one or more rooms with comfortable chairs in a common infusion area, and even private rooms with beds. Not everyone at an infusion site will be receiving treatment for lupus. People may be getting infusions of other medicines for other health conditions.
If your doctor prescribes BENLYSTA, ask your doctor or nurse to describe the site where you’ll be receiving your infusions. You may even want to visit the site before your first infusion and meet the medical staff. This way you’ll know how long it will take to get there and what to expect once you arrive, which can make you feel more comfortable.

How often do you get the infusion? 
After receiving the first infusion of BENLYSTA, the recommended dosing schedule is to receive the second infusion at 2 weeks and the third infusion at 4 weeks. After this, it is recommended to receive BENLYSTA once every 4 weeks. You may wonder why it is recommended to receive three BENLYSTA infusions in the first 4 weeks—called a "loading dose." This is consistent with what was done in the clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of BENLYSTA.

What are some typical reactions to infusion? 
Serious reactions may happen on the day of treatment or the day after receiving BENLYSTA. The most common symptoms of a reaction can include:
Swelling of the face, lips, mouth, tongue, or throat
Trouble breathing
Low blood pressure
Dizziness or fainting
Skin rash, redness, or swelling
Tell your healthcare professional or get emergency medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms.


Anonymous said…
How is Benlysta expected to help? Is it symptom relief or slowing disease progression? It's been suggested I try it, but after having an unsuccessful try with Remicade years ago, I hesitate to feel more exhaustion than I usually do.
Anonymous said…
I took Remicade for many years without any help at all. Now I take Benlysta, and it is totally different much, much better. I take it for Lupus and I believe I have had that a very long time and was recently diagnosed. Muscle pain is now going away quickly, and I feel better about myself. I would say try it. It does take a while to work cause it has to build up in your system. If you do try it, just give it a chance.

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