What Types of Medications Treat Lupus?


Paige Greenfield

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Which Lupus Medication Is Right For Me?

Every case of lupus is unique, so it's critical to work with your doctor to determine the best medications for you.
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If only there were a single pill that could make all your lupus symptoms vanish. Science isn’t there yet, but many treatments available today can help you reclaim your health and live your life more fully.

Treatment for lupus is highly personalized. The treatment plan that your doctor recommends will address your specific symptoms. For example, if you have a type of lupus that affects the skin, your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat rashes or lesions.

Still, for every person the treatment goals remain the same:

  • Reduce inflammation throughout the body

  • Control your overactive immune system

  • Prevent and treat flares when they occur

  • Reduce joint pain and fatigue

  • Protect organs from damage

Working closely with your doctor, you’ll find the right combination of medications that keep your disease in check. Here’s a look at some of the drugs that might help.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

These are the most popular drugs for treating lupus. One reason: By reducing inflammation, they help relieve many symptoms such as fever, arthritis, and chest pain. What’s more, symptoms often improve within days of starting these medications. Some people may find that anti-inflammatories provide all the relief they need.

While some anti-inflammatories are available over the counter, others require a prescription from your doctor. No matter which kind you take, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Some popular anti-inflammatories for treating lupus include:

  • Aspirin

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin, Naprosyn, Indocin, Relafen, and Celebrex

  • Acetaminophen. Although it doesn’t address inflammation, it helps control pain.

BLyS-Specific Inhibitor

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What to Ask Your Doctor About Lupus

In 2011, the FDA approved the first new medication to treat lupus in 56 years. The biologic drug, called Benlysta, is approved for people with active autoantibody-positive lupus who are also taking other lupus medications.

Benlysta is delivered intravenously, or through a vein. It targets B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) protein, a specific protein that B cells—white blood cells that produce inflammation-causing autoantibodies—need to function. Scientists believe the drug works by cutting down on the number of wayward B cells involved in lupus.


Corticosteroids are powerful medications that help control the immune system’s assault on healthy tissues and organs. How? The drugs mimic cortisol, a hormone your body naturally produces. Cortisol helps regulate your immune system and has a natural anti-inflammatory effect. Corticosteroids do the same and help treat symptoms such as swelling and pain.

Corticosteroids come in many different forms, including pills, topical creams or gels, or injectables. This offers your doctor many options when determining which kind will work best for you. Corticosteroids are potent drugs, so your doctor will work with you closely to find the lowest dose that provides the greatest control over your symptoms.

The most commonly prescribed steroid for lupus is prednisone (Deltasone). Other corticosteroids used to treat lupus are:

  • Methylprednisolone (Medrol)

  • Dexamethasone (Decadron and Hexadrol)

Corticosteroids are steroids. But steroids prescribed for autoimmune diseases like lupus are different from the anabolic steroids athletes have been known to abuse.

Antimalarial Medications

As the name implies, these pills were first used to treat malaria, but they also proved helpful for people with lupus. When you have lupus, your body produces inflammation-causing proteins called autoantibodies that attack and damage healthy tissues.

Antimalarials decrease autoantibody production and inflammation, joint pain, and skin problems along with it. In fact, antimalarials are particularly helpful for skin-related issues such as rashes, mouth ulcers, lesions, and sensitivity to light.

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