Chinese Researchers Test Promising Lupus Drug

Ines Martins, PhD avatar

by Ines Martins, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recently announced that Chinese investigators are going to test a new drug agent for treating lupus in upcoming clinical trials. The compound called SM934, is a water-soluble artemisinin derivative that has already been approved by the China Food and Drug Administration.

According to the CAS, over the last 15 years, researchers in Shanghai have been working on the development of the drug. Standard treatments for the potentially fatal disease, in which the body attacks its own tissue and organs, is composed of combined glucocorticoids and immunosuppressive agents that researchers believe in the long-term can compromise a patients’ immune system. While a compromised immune system is potentially detrimental to a healthy person, in Lupus, the immune system attacks the body. Because of the this, SM934’s immunosuppressive effect could be beneficial for those with the disease.

In 2011, the United States approved an antibody-based drug to fight the disease, however, according to the CAS, access to the drug is very restricted due to its high price. Following more than a decade of investigations, SM934 has been found to “restore the body’s immune balance” and to modulate autoimmune responses. If results of these trials show the compound is effective, this could be the first time since 1955 that a drug enters in the market as a lupus treatment. According to the latest epidemiological survey, many million people in China suffer from the condition.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs damage the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain and blood and sometimes causes butterfly-shaped rash on the face. The underlying cause of autoimmune diseases such as SLE is not fully understood. The condition causes joint pain and swelling. Some patients also develop arthritis, where the joints of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees are often affected. SLE is much more common in women than men. It may occur at any age, but appears most often in people between the ages of 10 and 50. African Americans and Asians are affected by the disease more often than people from other races.