Benlysta: Amazing Accomplishment or Another Cash Cow?

The FDA announced Wednesday it has recently approved a new drug, Benlysta (Belimumab), specifically for lupus sufferers. This is the first drug created in 50 years for the treatment of lupus. This will no doubt make many of the 5 million people worldwide who have lupus, find a new ray of hope to alleviate the pain and other dreadful symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately, this jubilation may be false hope.

As many people with autoimmune diseases know, the disease is bad enough, but the side effects from the medications can be just as debilitating if not worse. In addition, like any other medication, this only treats the symptoms of the disease, it does not get to the root cause of the disease to eradicate it.

Benlysta is a monoclonal antibody that inhibits B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS). Benlysta works by blocking the binding of soluble BLyS, a B-cell survival factor, to its receptors on B cells. The drug doesn’t bind B cells directly, but by binding BLyS, it inhibits the survival of B cells, including autoreactive B cells, and reduces the differentiation of B cells into immunoglobulin-producing plasma cells.

What does that mean? In layman’s terms…

SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease where the immune system is attacking all systems in the body, specifically at the nucleus of all cells. Monocytes, a type of white blood cell, are destroyed in the process through a process known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is basically when a cell hits it’s own “self destruct” button, destroying itself.

B cells function to make antibodies against antigens. As this apoptosis increases, so does B cell activity, hence, disease activity. The reason is because the B cells are making the antibodies against YOU!

Therefore, Benlysta inhibits a component of the immune system that stimulates the activity of B cells. By doing that, less antibodies are made against the body, and less cell death.

This definitely is an improvement on many of the drugs currently used in the treatment of SLE. Except that they have also stated it may not work well in African Americans, since those involved in the trials did not respond to treatment. Most current drugs just simply suppress the immune system or help to reduce inflammation. However, this drug still does not solve the problem as to why people are getting SLE and how to prevent it from happening. It only works to treat the disease once it has already begun, and still doesn’t cure it.

What functional/integrative medicine has been doing is nothing short of amazing. Medical doctors and researchers have found that simply the overuse of antibiotics and other medications that disrupt the intestinal flora (and therefore the immune balance) are what lays the ground work for many diseases. Our SAD (Standard American Diet) contributes to the problem by creating an acidic environment for the harmful bacteria, parasites and yeast to flourish. Once this occurs, a cascading effect begins leading to many autoimmune diseases or even other health complications such as diabetes or heart problems.

Interesting that something as simple as eating healthy, using probiotics whenever taking antibiotics and using less medications altogether can prevent most of these diseases. In addition, in those already affected by autoimmune disease, by treating the intestinal dysbiosis and beginning a healthy diet, these diseases can start to diminish incredibly or even vanish. The simplicity of it is wonderful!

This new way of medicine, treating the cause, not the symptoms is slowly gaining ground. It will face much opposition as it has been. The reason boils down to money. If everyone on the planet learned tomorrow about functional medicine, there would be such a massive outcry that pharmaceutical companies and “old school” doctors would have no choice but to change and start treating with recommended dietary changes, vitamins, minerals and healthy supplements. The pharmaceutical companies would have to quit making many drugs, and start making more supplements. They would still make money, but not as much with a healthier planet full of people, not needing medication or doctors as much.

But the entire planet won’t find out tomorrow. They are finding out slowly. And as functional medicine is trying to gain ground, they are simultaneously being silenced by “old school” doctors and pharmaceutical companies. This is a daunting task. Patients and medical doctors fighting for functional medicine – “David” against traditional medical doctors and big Pharma – “Goliath.”

Trillions could be lost, which is unacceptable in the eyes of many doctors and pharmaceutical company CEO’s. Forget that the purpose of medicine is to treat and try to cure patients. It has become big business, and to stay in business, they need to make sure they have repeat business – keeping people sick.

This new drug, Benlysta, is projected to cost EACH PATIENT $35,000 ANNUALLY! It is also projected to reach 2-3 BILLION in sales within a few years. Some say it could go as high as 5 billion. This is just ONE drug. One. When you realize how many drugs there are out there for so many diseases, you understand the amount of money that could be lost if word gets out that we can not only treat many diseases, but cure and even prevent many just from a simple diet modification and changing how we take simple medications for general infections or allergies.

I do congratulate the company for creating something that will help those that do not know about functional medicine yet – although it will be prohibitively expensive for most. This drug does seem to be a definite improvement over current standards such as prednisone or methotrexate. But Goliath – be on the lookout for David.

References:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/10/us-humangenome-lupus-idUSTRE7287JY20110310?pageNumber=2

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