Deadly med approved for lupus
Millions of lupus patients desperate for some good news are the victims of a cruel hoax instead -- because the first new treatment approved in 56 years might actually be worse than the disease itself.
It could even be deadly.
The drug is called Benlysta, and it's so bad that even the company-funded study used to get it approved showed almost no benefit at all at the 76-week mark.
So researchers focused on the 52-week mark instead -- and even those numbers are hardly worth crowing about.
The researchers divided more than 800 patients who were receiving "standard" care -- including steroids -- into three groups: one got a high dose of the new drug, one got a low dose, and the third got a placebo.
After 52 weeks, the drug had a little bit of success: 43 percent of those who took the high dose had some improvement, versus 34 percent of the placebo group.
Skip ahead to that 76-week mark, however, and the gap narrows to 39 percent versus 32 percent.
The researchers claim that might have been due to "chance," but it was the same story with every other treatment standard: At 52 weeks, those who took the high dose had fewer flare-ups, less fatigue, and needed fewer steroids than those who took the placebo.
At 76 weeks, the drug was no better than the placebo in any of those measures.
But there was one area where the drug did set itself apart from the placebo: side effects. Patients who took the drug were more likely to face serious problems, including nasty infections and a host of neurologic and psychiatric issues.
Since the drug actually shuts down part of the immune system, that's no surprise -- and I'd bet those risks would actually increase as patients continued taking it.
There were also more deaths and even three suicides among the patients who took the drug... something the researchers claim may have been -- here's that word again -- "chance."
"Chance" my rear end -- I don't know how many "chances" it'll take, but mark my words: You haven't heard the end of this story.
About the author
William Campbell Douglass I.I., M.D. has been called "the conscience of modern medicine."
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