How Benlysta Works

Some people with lupus have too much protein called B-lympocyte stimulator or BLyS (sometimes pronounced as “Bliss”). It might also be called B-cell activating factor or BAFF.

BLyS can act sort of like a switch that “turns on” special immune system cells: a type of white blood cell called the B-cell (B-lymphocyte).

In lupus patients, B-cells can get confused and attack the body instead of only attacking foreign invaders like the bad germs that make people sick. Benlysta is a biologic medicine that blocks the activity of BLyS.

In blocking BLys, Benlysta suppresses the body’s immune system. Though this suppression can make it slightly harder for patients to fight off infections, it also helps to stabilize an overactive immune system and can help improve symptoms in people with lupus.

Side Effects of Benlysta

Patients should talk to their doctor if they are concerned about any side effects.

Because Benlysta (belimumab) suppresses part of the body’s immune system, it makes it slightly harder for patients to fight off infections. Patients should advise their doctor if they develop a fever, think they might have an infection, or are given antibiotics to treat an infection.

Some of Benlysta’s other potential side-effects include:

  • Infusion reaction – Benlysta can rarely cause an allergic reaction during the infusion.
  • Nausea & diarrhea – Some people feel unwell with nausea & vomiting when they take Benlysta. Benlysta can also cause diarrhea
  • Headache – Benlysta can rarely cause a headache
  • Heart problems – Patients should tell their doctor if they develop chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Depression – Let your doctor know if you experience worsening depression or thoughts of suicide while taking Benlysta
  • Malignancy – Very rare cases of cancer have been seen in patients receiving Benlysta. It is not known if Benlysta causes cancer. Tell your doctor if you have had cancer in the past.

Benlysta has not been studied for safety in pregnancy. Patients should tell their doctor if they are planning to get pregnant, get pregnant, or if they are breastfeeding.

Who Should NOT Take Benlysta

Patients who should NOT be taking Benlysta include:

  • Patients who have had a previous serious allergic reaction to Benlysta (belimumab)
  • Women who are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or breast feeding
  • Possibly patients who have cancer or have had a past history of certain cancers

Anyone who becomes pregnant while taking Benlysta should notify their doctor immediately.

When to Call a Doctor

People taking Benlysta should call their doctor if they feel sick and want to stop, or they are concerned about any side effects.

Other reasons to call a doctor while taking Benlysta include:

  • Fever or possible infection
  • If another doctor has prescribed antibiotics to fight an infection
  • Before having surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Planning to get any vaccinations
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts