Hormone treats autoimmune disease

From Toronto, at the 82nd annual meeting of the Endocrine Society

A medication combining the drug prasterone and the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, stabilizes or improves symptoms of the autoimmune disease lupus, according to a study from a company in California.

People with systemic lupus erythematosus suffer severe immune responses against their own body. Symptoms include skin rashes, arthritis, muscle pain, and sometimes organ damage.

Among 265 women with mild to moderate lupus, 132 receiving the drug combo, called GL701, reported fewer flare-ups of their disease than 133 women receiving a placebo, says Kenneth E. Schwartz of Genelabs Technologies in Redwood City, Calif.

After 60 days of treatment, 66 percent of the women taking GL701 showed improvement in disease severity and self-reported quality of life, compared with 49 percent of the women taking a placebo, says Schwartz. “The therapeutic effect was most apparent in patients with more severe disease,” he says.

As a possible drawback to GL701, women had lower blood concentrations of high-density lipoproteins, which make up so-called good cholesterol, after taking the drug than before.

Genelabs is currently seeking FDA approval for GL701. If approved, it would be the first new treatment for lupus in about 40 years.

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