A small randomized Phase 1 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology found that the existing asthma treatment omalizumab (Xolair) may improve lupus activity by reducing production of type 1 interferons. The study involved 15 patients with lupus who had elevated amounts of an antibody immunoglobulin E and a minimum level of disease activity according to the standard measurement tool Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index 2000 (SLEDAI 2K).
Level of disease activity improved according to the SLEDAI score among those taking omalizumab for the 16 week study as well as those given the drug in the following 16 weeks during the open label phase of the study when those who had originally received placebo. Omalizumab was also well tolerated with mild side effects comparable to that seen with placebo. No allergic reactions were seen.
Study investigators concluded, “Omalizumab is well tolerated in SLE and associated with improvement in disease activity. Larger randomized clinical trials will be needed to assess efficacy of omalizumab in patients with SLE.”