17 December 2020 – GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE/NYSE: GSK) announced the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Benlysta (belimumab) for the treatment of adult patients with active lupus nephritis (LN) who are receiving standard therapy. Lupus nephritis is a serious inflammation of the kidneys caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus, which can lead to end-stage kidney disease, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. The approval extends the current indication in the US to include both SLE and LN for both the intravenous and subcutaneous formulations.
Dr. Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK said: “Approximately 40% of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus develop lupus nephritis, which causes inflammation in the kidneys and can lead to end-stage kidney disease. Benlysta is the first medicine approved to treat systemic lupus and adults with active lupus nephritis, an important treatment advance for patients with this incurable autoimmune disease.”
The FDA approval for adult patients with active LN follows a Breakthrough Therapy Designation and Priority Review and is based on the positive results of the BLISS-LN (Efficacy and Safety of Belimumab in Adult Patients with Active Lupus Nephritis) study and the unmet need in this patient population. The BLISS-LN study is the largest and longest phase 3 study conducted in active LN, involving 448 adult patients. The study met its primary endpoint demonstrating that a statistically significant greater number of patients achieved Primary Efficacy Renal Response (PERR) at two years (or 104 weeks) when treated with Benlysta plus standard therapy compared to placebo plus standard therapy in adults with active LN (43% vs 32%, odds ratio (95% CI) 1.55 (1.04, 2.32), p=0.0311). Statistical significance compared to placebo across all four major secondary endpoints was achieved, including Complete Renal Response and Time to Renal-Related Event or Death. The safety results are consistent with the known safety profile of Benlysta.
Dr. Richard Furie, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Professor at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health and Lead Investigator of the BLISS-LN study, commented: “We have long aspired to enhance outcomes for patients with lupus nephritis. In the four decades I have been caring for people with lupus, we have not been able to achieve remission in more than just one-third of patients with lupus nephritis and, despite all of our efforts, 10% to 30% of patients with lupus kidney disease still progress to end-stage kidney disease. The data from the BLISS-LN study show that Benlysta added to standard therapy not only increased response rates over two years, but it also prevented worsening of kidney disease in patients with active lupus nephritis compared to standard therapy alone. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the rewards of decades of research.”
Dr. Brad Rovin, Director of the Division of Nephrology and Medical Director of the Center for Clinical Research Management at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, commented: “The overarching goal in the management of patients with lupus nephritis is to delay the need for kidney replacement therapies, such as dialysis and transplantation. The BLISS-LN study not only demonstrated that the addition of Benlysta to standard therapy significantly increased the PERR, but also showed that patients had a 49% decrease in risk for experiencing a renal-related event. I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making in lupus nephritis.”
About the BLISS-LN study
BLISS-LN is a phase 3, 104-week, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, post-approval commitment study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of intravenous (IV) Benlysta 10 mg/kg plus standard therapy (mycophenolate mofetil for induction and maintenance, or cyclophosphamide for induction followed by azathioprine for maintenance, plus steroids) compared to placebo plus standard therapy in adult patients with active LN. Active LN was confirmed by renal biopsy during screening visit using the 2003 International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society criteria within the past 6 months, and clinically active kidney disease requiring induction therapy.
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About lupus nephritis (LN)
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus, is a chronic, incurable, autoimmune disease associated with a range of symptoms that can fluctuate over time including painful or swollen joints, extreme fatigue, unexplained fever, skin rashes and organ damage. In lupus nephritis (LN), SLE causes kidney inflammation (swelling or scarring) of the small blood vessels that filter wastes in your kidney (glomeruli) and sometimes the kidneys, by attacking them like they would attack a disease. LN can lead to end-stage kidney disease, which requires kidney dialysis or a transplant. Despite improvements in both diagnosis and treatment over the last few decades, LN remains an indicator of poor prognosis., Manifestations of LN include proteinuria, elevations in serum creatinine and the presence of urinary sediment.
About Benlysta (belimumab)
Benlysta, a BLyS-specific inhibitor, is a human monoclonal antibody that binds to soluble BLyS. Benlysta does not bind B cells directly. By binding BLyS, Benlysta inhibits the survival of B cells, including autoreactive B cells, and reduces the differentiation of B cells into immunoglobulin-producing plasma cells. First approved in 2011, it is the first and only approved biologic for both SLE and LN in more than 50 years.
The following information is based on the US Prescribing Information for Benlysta in licensed indications only. Please consult the full Prescribing Information for all the labelled safety information for Benlysta.
Benlysta is indicated for patients aged ≥5 years with active, autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who are receiving standard therapy and patients aged ≥18 with active lupus nephritis who are receiving standard therapy. The subcutaneous (SC) formulation is approved for patients aged ≥18 years. Benlysta is not recommended in patients with severe active central nervous system lupus or in combination with other biologics.
GSK’s commitment to immunology
GSK is focused on the research and development of medicines for immune-mediated diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, that are responsible for a significant health burden to patients and society. Our world-leading scientists are focusing research on the biology of the immune system with the aim to develop immunological-based medicines that have the potential to alter the course of inflammatory disease. As the only company with a biological treatment approved for adult and pediatric lupus, GSK is leading the way to help patients and their families manage this chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease. Our aim is to develop transformational medicines that can alter the course of inflammatory disease to help people live their best day, every day.
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GSK cautions investors that any forward-looking statements or projections made by GSK, including those made in this announcement, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 3.D “Risk Factors” in the company’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for 2019 and as set out in GSK’s “Principal risks and uncertainties” section of the Q3 Results and any impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
-  National Kidney Foundation, Lupus and Kidney Disease (Lupus Nephritis). Available at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lupus
 Gordon C, Hayne D, Pusey C, et al. European Consensus Statement on the Terminology used in the Management of Lupus Glomerulonephritis. Lupus 2009;18:257-26.
 Waldman M and Appel GB. Update of the Treatment of Lupus Nephritis. Kidney International 2006;70:1403-1412.
Posted: December 2020