Background Data on the efficacy of belimumab in SLE mainly originate from large randomized clinical trials, whereas reports from real-life clinical practice are lacking.
Objectives To describe the clinical experience from the use of belimumab in Greece since the approval of the drug.
Methods Multicentre observational study of patients receiving belimumab, with documentation of disease activity (SLEDAI-2K index), achievement of low disease activity states [remission (SLEDAI-2K=0) and lupus low disease activity state (LLDAS)], accrual of irreversible damage (SLICC damage index, SDI), number and severity of flares, and side-effects. Analyses were performed at quarterly intervals and only patients with at least 3 months of follow-up were included in the study.
Results A total of 56 patients were included [53 women (94.6%), mean (SD) age 46.3 (12.7) years]. Evidence of serologic activity (low C3/C4 and/or high anti-ds DNA) was evident in 30 patients (53.5%). Most frequent manifestations were arthritis (82.1%), inflammatory rash (73.2%), active hair loss (57.1%), mucosal ulcers (26.8%) and leukopenia (10.7%).
Median (range) duration of follow-up was 9.1 (2.9 - 34.6) months. We observed a significant decrease in the SLEDAI-2K, physician global assessment (PGA) and daily prednisone dose over time, starting as early as 3 months after belimumab initiation (Table 1). This effect was significantly more pronounced in patients who were serologically active (SA) at baseline, even after exclusion of the serologic component of the SLEDAI [median (range) clinical SLEDAI-2K for SA patients: 7 (1–24) at baseline vs. 2 (0–16) at 6 months and 2 (0–16) at 12 months, p<0.0001 and p=0.013, respectively; for serologically inactive patients: 6 (2–23) at baseline vs. 6 (0–14) at 6 months and 5 (0–18) at 12 months, p=0.017 and p=0.024, respectively]. For patients with ≥12 months of follow-up (n=20), belimumab treatment resulted in a significant decrease in flare rate [median (range) total number of flares for the 12 months before and after belimumab treatment, 3 (0–7) and 0 (0–2), respectively, p<0.0001). 10 patients (17.8%) discontinued belimumab due to inefficacy after a median (range) 7.1 (5.5 - 20.4) months of therapy and 5 patients discontinued due to planned pregnancy. There were no drug discontinuations due to side-effects.
Conclusions In real-life clinical settings, belimumab is efficacious in controlling disease activity of SLE and permitting tapering of glucocorticoid dose. Similar to data from RCTs, this effect seems to be more pronounced in serologically active patients.
Disclosure of Interest None declared