1 What is Benlysta?

Brand: Benlysta

Generic: Belimumab

Belimumab, also known and sold under the trade name of Benlysta, is a type of medication called a monoclonal antibody, used in a treatment of certain type of lupus – systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in a combination with other medications to treat SLE.

It works by binding to a protein which is usually found in patients with lupus in their bloodstream and limiting the activity of the protein. It helps by decreasing the symptoms of lupus.

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2 What to Know Before Using

Before you agree to the treatment with Belimumab, make sure you get informed about all the benefits and the potential side effects and risks. As always, the benefits from its usage should outweigh the potential risks.

It is essential to inform your doctor about:

  • Allergies – Inform your doctor if you have ever had any allergic reactions to this medicine (if used before), or to any other medicines, prescribed or no prescribed. Also, inform your healthcare professional if you have any allergic reactions to any specific food, dye, fabric and etc.
  • Pediatric – Because there are no studies yet that confirm the possible risks and benefits from using this medicine within pediatric patients, safety is not guaranteed.
  • Geriatric – There are no studies that confirm the potential side effects and risks connected to the age of the patients, because of that this medicine is considered safe to use within geriatric patients.
  • Pregnancy – Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or have any plans about pregnancy in the near future. It is unknown if this medicine can harm your unborn baby, because of that it should be only used only when there is no other option for another medicine to be used. Also, make sure you use a proven form of birth control during the treatment and at least four months after the last treatment.
  • Breastfeeding – Inform your doctor if you are currently breastfeeding. There are no studies yet that confirm if this medicine is extracted into the milk, because of that it is not proven as safe to use during breastfeeding.
  • Other medicines – Some medicine can occur interactions if used in a combination with other medicines but sometimes those combinations are allowed. Because of that make sure you inform your doctor about any other medicines that you are using at the moment, prescribed or no prescribed.
  • Other interactions – Some medicine can occur interactions if used in a combination with some specific food, tobacco or alcohol. Because of that consult your doctor if you need to follow any specific diet during the time of the treatment, and ask for any information about the use of alcohol and tobacco.
  • Other medical problems – Make sure you inform your doctor if there are other medical problems that you are dealing with during the treatment e.g. depression, any mental illness, infection, weak immune system, multiple drug allergy.

3 Proper Usage

This medicine is given intravenously by a healthcare professional.

The injection is given through the vein, slowly over one hour. Usually, the first three doses are given every two weeks and after the third dose, it is usually given every four weeks.

The dosage is prescribed from the doctor according to you weight.

At the beginning of the treatment, this medication can cause serious reactions. It is important to inform your doctor about it so that some medicines can be prescribed in order to control the reactions.

Visit your doctor at your scheduled appointments and inform him about your prognosis.

If you miss a dose, contact your doctor in order to make a new schedule. If you suspect an overdose, contact your doctor right away.

4 Precautions To Take

It is important to visit your doctor at your scheduled appointments to inform him about your prognosis, side effects and get your therapy.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medication, because this medicine may contain inactive ingredients which can cause an allergic reaction.

This medicine may decrease the activity of your immune system, increasing the possibility of an infection, for that consult your doctor if any medication is needed and also take better care for your hygiene.

During pregnancy, this medicine can cross the placenta, because of that, the benefits and the potential side effects are not confirmed. So using Belimumab during pregnancy is not advised, only when there are no other options left.

Since antibodies are usually extracted in the milk, breastfeeding is not advised during the treatment with Belimumab, although there are no studies that confirm the benefits or the potential risks.

5 Potential Side Effects

It is not unusual for this medicine to cause unwanted side effects.

If you notice any of the following side effects inform your doctor right away, so that he can prescribe any other medications to decrease the side effects, or if they are more severe, the doctor may discontinue the treatment.

More common side effects:

  • Bleeding, infection, redness, hives, pain, numbness, rash, soreness, scaring, swelling, tenderness, tingling, stinging at the injection site
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills and fever
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, face, tongue
  • Sore throat

Less common:

Some of the side effects are just a reaction of the body trying to adjust to the medicine, so that they can disappear over time. Other ones, require medical help.

The doctor may prescribe other medications to make the condition easier. But some of the side effects are an indication that there is a risk if the treatment is continued, so the doctor may discontinue the treatment.

Other side effects that are not listed may occur as well. It is important to look out for any potential side effects and inform the doctor right away.