Editorial board comment
The recent approval of belimumab (Benlysta) for children with lupus is a huge step for pediatric rheumatology. This is the first medicine specifically approved for the pediatric lupus population.
Children are not mini-adults. There are specific age-related concerns that must be addressed when evaluating how medicines will work in the pediatric population. Linear growth, psychologic issues, and hormone changes are just some of the differences between adult and pediatric lupus patients. In lupus, children are known to have more aggressive disease, with increased prevalence of kidney and neurologic involvement compared to adults.
The approval of belimumab highlights the collaborative efforts of the pediatric rheumatology community. Pediatric lupus is a rare disease. In order to effectively study the benefit or side effect s of medicines, many patients are needed to participate in these treatments. The approval of belimumab was based on data from 93 patients from all over the world.
Our goal is to avoid medicines with long-term harmful side effects. Biologic therapies are directed at the underlying cause of disease, and may have fewer side effects compared to more traditional disease modifying agents. The addition of belimumab to treat pediatric lupus is game changing and opens the door for other pediatric-specific studies in rheumatology.