Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), a form of lupus, is a systemic autoimmune disease affecting approximately 550,000 people in the U.S., EU and Japan.1,2 SLE occurs most often in women of child-bearing age.3,4 SLE occurs when the immune system is activated and attacks different parts of the body, leading to widespread inflammation that can affect many different body parts, including a person's joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.2,3

Each person with SLE has slightly different symptoms that can range from mild to severe, depending on which body parts are affected by the disease.2 Symptoms may include arthritis, extreme fatigue, red rashes (most often on the face), hair loss, sensitivity to the sun, mouth sores, and pale or purple fingers and toes when exposed to cold or stress.2 Although SLE is most often a disease that one could live with for decades, it is ranked among the top 20 leading causes of death in young women.5

Medicines specifically approved by the FDA for treatment of SLE are aspirin, hydroxychloroquine, corticosteroids (for example, prednisone), the corticotropin injection Acthar® and the immunosuppressive drug Benlysta®.2 Other drugs that are not FDA approved for SLE but are often prescribed by physicians include methotrexate, mycophenolate, azathioprine and cyclophosphamide. These treatments may be associated with significant side effects, such as serious infections. In fact, according to a recent report, people with lupus believe that the side effects of available treatments contribute to the devastating physical and emotional impact of lupus.6

1. Health Advances, LLC Analysis
2. “Lupus.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 25 Oct. 2017,
3. “Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus).” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 30 June 2016,
4. Merola, Jf, et al. “Clinical Manifestations and Survival among Adults with (SLE) According to Age at Diagnosis.” Lupus, vol. 23, no. 8, July 2014, pp. 778–784., doi:10.1177/0961203314526291
5. Yen, Eric Y., and Ram R. Singh. “Brief Report: Lupus-An Unrecognized Leading Cause of Death in Young Females: A Population-Based Study Using Nationwide Death Certificates, 2000-2015.” Arthritis & Rheumatology, vol. 70, no. 8, 18 Apr. 2018, pp. 1251–1255., doi:10.1002/art.40512
6. Lupus: Patient Voices. Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, the Lupus Foundation of America, the Lupus Research Alliance, 2018, Lupus: Patient Voices,