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Drugs for Lupus

Since lupus is an autoimmune disease, the medications that are prescribed to patients will depend on the symptoms that they are exhibiting. Before selecting the appropriate drug regimen for lupus, doctors must assess whether the potential benefits from the medication would outweigh any potential risks. Patients who have been diagnosed with lupus should discuss their symptoms with their primary health care provider, and they can decide which ones need to be treated. In some cases, patients will experience some fluctuations in their symptoms following the start of a new course of treatment. As symptoms begin to flare and subside, your doctor may choose to change the dosage or medication.

(If these drugs have proven unsuccessful, then you may qualify for our lupus clinical trials in Birmingham, AL.)

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) are a very common drug used to treat many of the more painful symptoms associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, or stronger versions of the drug can be obtained through a prescription. The most common forms of over-the-counter NSAIDs available are ibuprofen (brand names include Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Lupus patients who take this medication can find some relief from pain and inflammation that is associated with their autoimmune condition. Side effects such as kidney problems, stomach bleeding, and increased risk of heart conditions have been reported in people who have been taking NSAIDs.


Corticosteroids, like Prednisone, can help to combat the inflammation that is caused by lupus. While many lupus patients are prescribed corticosteroids based on their symptoms, these drugs can often cause long-term side effects in patients. Reported side effects from corticosteroids include excess bruising, osteoporosis, hypertension, unusual weight gain, and a higher risk of infection. Studies have shown that these side effects are more likely for higher dose prescriptions or prolonged usage.

Antimalarial Drugs

These types of drugs were originally designed to combat malaria. Further research provided evidence that this medication could also be used to control systemic lupus erythematosus. Following an analysis of the patient’s condition, doctors may recommend a course of treatment with hydroxychloroquine (brand name is Plaquenil). Reported side effects from these antimalarial drugs include upset stomach or nausea, and in very rare cases, they have caused damage to the retina of the eye.

Immune Suppressants

These types of drugs can come in handy for the more severe cases of lupus, as they work to suppress the patient’s out of control immune system response. There are a variety of immunosuppressive drugs available including azathioprine (brand names include Azasan and Imuran), leflunomide (Arava), methotrexate (Trexall), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and mycophenolate (Cellcept). The latest FDA approved immunosuppressive drug is called belimumab (it is currently marketed under the brand name Benlysta). The approval of this drug was particularly big news, as the FDA had not approved a new drug for lupus patients for 50 years. Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause reported side effects, such as increased risk of cancer and infection, liver damage, or decreased fertility.

If you are looking to get better control over your lupus symptoms, your doctor can help you decide which medication regimen will work best in your case. Medicine has come a long way in recent years, and now lupus patients have the ability to enjoy a better quality of life. You don’t have to let your immune system bring you down anymore.