New drugs….new hope!!

Several new treatment options for chronic illnesses have received FDA approval in the last few months. Among them are two biologic agents administered intravenously for chronic refractory gout in adults (September 2010)  and the other is for Lupus, a serious autoimmune disorder (March 2011).

Krystexxa (pegloticase) has been approved by the FDA  for patients with gout who either did not respond or could not tolerate conventional therapy. Gout is the result of an excess of uric acid in the body, leading to needle-like crystals forming in the joints or soft tissue, causing swelling, pain, joint stiffness, heat and redness. There are an estimated three million adults with gout in the USA. 3% of thee million is about 90,000 patients. Krystexxa is an enzyme, metabolizes the uric acid into a harmless chemical that the human body expels through urine, thus lowering uric acid blood levels. The patient receives an intravenous infusion once every two weeks. For more information about Krystexxa, including dosing and adverse events, click here.

The new lupus drug, Benlysta (Belimumab)  is the much awaited development for Lupus in 50 years. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s disease-fighting system attacks healthy tissue. The condition disproportionally affects women, usually aged 15 to 44. Symptoms commonly include joint pain and swelling, sensitivity to light, fever, chest pain, hair loss and fatigue.  In addition to the joints, lupus can affect the skin, kidneys, lungs, heart and brain. As many as 1.5 million people in the United States have the disease, although estimates vary widely, the FDA said. Black women have a three times higher incidence of the disease than Caucasian women. Benlysta is administered as an intravenous infusion and is the first inhibitor designed to target B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) protein, which may reduce the number of abnormal B cells thought to be a problem in lupus. For more information about Benlysta, including dosing and adverse events, click here.

These new treatment options have given new hope for many patients suffering these painful chronic and debilitating conditions. It is an exciting time for infusion nurses as well. Since most of these new treatments are given intravenously, we play an important role in helping our patients understand how the new agents work, the infusion process and what to expect during their treatments. Often patients are intimidated by the term, “infusion” but one important aspect for patients to remember is that a professional will be administering these agents. Prior to infusion, they are assessed and healthcare professionals are there to monitor not only their progress but how they tolerate the procedure.

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