Lupus Medication Overview
Medications are important for managing many systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. An array of drug therapies is now available, and this has increased the potential for effective treatment and excellent patient outcomes. Once a person has been diagnosed with lupus, the doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the person’s age, health, symptoms, and lifestyle. It should be reevaluated regularly and revised as necessary to ensure that it is as effective as possible.
The goals for treating a patient with lupus include:
- reducing tissue inflammation caused by the disease
- suppressing immune system abnormalities that are responsible for tissue inflammation
- preventing flares and treating them when they do occur
- easing symptoms such as joint pain and fatigue
- minimizing complications of the disease.
The following links describe some of the main drugs used to treat SLE. The information presented is intended as a brief review and reference. Drug references and other medical and nursing texts provide more complete and detailed information regarding the use of each drug.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Intravenous Immunoglobulins (IVIGs)
- Other Drugs
Patients and Providers: Working Together
People with lupus should work with their doctors to develop their medication treatment plan. Patients should thoroughly understand the reason for taking a drug, its action, dose, administration times, and common side effects. Pharmacists also can be a good resource for patients by helping them understand their medication treatment plan. If a patient experiences a problem believed to be related to a medication, the patient should notify her or his doctor immediately. It can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking some medications, and patients should not stop or change treatments without first talking to their doctor.
The array of drugs and the complexity of treatment plans can be overwhelming and confusing. Newly diagnosed patients and patients whose treatment plans have changed should be closely followed and have immediate access to a nurse or doctor if they are having problems with the prescribed medications. Most SLE patients do well on lupus medications and experience few side effects. Those who do experience negative side effects should not become discouraged, because alternative drugs are often available.
Health professionals should review drug treatment plans with the lupus patient at each office visit to determine her or his understanding of and compliance with the plan. Questions should be encouraged and additional teaching done to reinforce or provide additional information as needed. It is important to note that people with lupus often require drugs for the treatment of conditions commonly seen with the disease. Examples of these types of medications include diuretics, antihypertensives, anticonvulsants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and antibiotics. Vaccinations are important to prevent diseases that could present a particular danger to people with lupus; however, live vaccines are not advised for people with lupus who are taking immunosuppressive drugs.