GSK announces positive headline results in phase 3 study of Benlysta in patients with lupus nephritis

 In Links to Lupus News

Article courtesy of GSK

GSK today announced positive headline results for intravenous (IV) Benlysta (belimumab) in the largest controlled phase 3 study in active lupus nephritis (LN), an inflammation of the kidneys caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) which can lead to end-stage kidney disease.

BLISS-LN achieves primary endpoint and all major secondary endpoints
On-track for regulatory submission during the first half of 2020
Issued: London, UK

The Efficacy and Safety of Belimumab in Patients with Active Lupus Nephritis (BLISS-LN) study, involving 448 patients, met its primary endpoint demonstrating that a statistically significant greater number of patients achieved Primary Efficacy Renal Response (PERR) over two years when treated with belimumab 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).

Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK said: “Lupus nephritis is one of the most common and serious complications of SLE, occurring in up to 60% of adult patients. The results of the BLISS-LN study show that Benlysta could make a clinically meaningful improvement to the lives of these patients who currently have limited treatment options.”

Dr Richard Furie, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Professor at the Feinstein Institutes at Northwell Health and Lead Investigator of BLISS-LN said: “My journey with Benlysta began nearly twenty years ago when we performed the very first clinical research trial in lupus patients. To see it culminate in a successful phase 3 lupus nephritis study is a key achievement as the inadequate response of our patients with kidney disease to conventional treatment has long been an area in need of major improvement.”

Belimumab also demonstrated statistical significance compared to placebo across all four major secondary endpoints: Complete Renal Response (CRR) after two years (the most stringent measure of renal response), Ordinal Renal Response (ORR) after two years, PERR after one year, and the time to death or renal-related event. In BLISS-LN, safety results for patients treated with belimumab were generally comparable to patients treated with placebo plus standard therapy. The safety results are consistent with the known profile of belimumab.

Benlysta is currently not recommended for use in severe active lupus nephritis anywhere in the world because it has not been previously evaluated in these patients. Based on these positive phase 3 data, GSK plans to progress regulatory submissions in the first half of 2020 to seek an update to the prescribing information.

The full results will be submitted for future presentation at upcoming scientific meetings and in peer-reviewed publications.

About lupus nephritis
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, which can lead to end-stage kidney disease. Despite improvements in both diagnosis and treatment over the last few decades, LN remains an indicator of poor prognosis.1,2 Manifestations of LN include proteinuria, elevations in serum creatinine, and the presence of urinary sediment.

BLISS-LN, which enrolled 448 adult patients, was a phase 3, 104-week, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled post-approval commitment study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of IV belimumab 10 mg/kg plus standard therapy (mycophenolate mofentil 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 lupus nephritis. Active lupus nephritis was confirmed by kidney biopsy during screening visit using the 2003 International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) criteria, and clinically active kidney disease.

The primary endpoint PERR was defined as estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR) ≥ 60 mL/min/1.73m2 or no decrease in eGFR from pre-flare of > 20%; and urinary protein:creatinine ratio (uPCR) ≤ 0.7; and not a treatment failure. The most stringent secondary endpoint CRR was defined as eGFR is no more than 10% below the pre-flare value or within normal range; and uPCR < 0.5; and not a treatment failure. ORR was defined as complete, partial or no response.

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.

The current US and EU indications for Benlysta are summarised below:

In the US, “Benlysta is indicated for the treatment of patients aged 5 years and older with active, autoantibody-positive, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who are receiving standard therapy. Limitations of Use: The efficacy of Benlysta has not been evaluated in patients with severe active lupus nephritis or severe active central nervous system lupus. Benlysta has not been studied in combination with other biologics or intravenous cyclophosphamide. Use of Benlysta is not recommended in these situations.”

Full US prescribing information including Medication Guide is available at:

In the EU, “Benlysta is indicated as “add-on therapy in patients aged 5 years and older with active, autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with a high degree of disease activity (e.g., positive anti-dsDNA and low complement) despite standard therapy.”

The Precaution and Warnings for Benlysta includes information that “Benlysta has not been studied in the following adult and paediatric patient groups, and is not recommended: severe active central nervous system lupus; severe active lupus nephritis; HIV; a history of, or current, hepatitis B or C; hypogammaglobulinaenia (IgG < 400mg/dl) or IgA deficiency (IgA < 10 mg/dl); a history of major organ transplant or hematopoietic stem cell/marrow transplant or renal transplant.”

The EU Summary of Product Characteristics for Benlysta is available on:

Benlysta is available as an intravenous and a subcutaneous formulation. The Benlysta subcutaneous formulation is not approved for use in children.

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 paediatric 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.

Important Safety Information for belimumab
Please consult the full Prescribing Information for all the labelled safety information for Benlysta (belimumab)


Previous anaphylaxis with BENLYSTA.

Warnings and precautions:

Not recommended in adult and paediatric groups with severe active central nervous system lupus, severe active lupus nephritis, HIV, history of/current hepatitis B or C, hypogammaglobulinaemia (IgG <400 mg/dl) or IgA deficiency (IgA <10 mg/dl) and patients with a history of major organ transplant or hematopoietic stem/cell/marrow transplant or renal transplant.

Mortality: In adult intravenous (IV) clinical trials, death occurred in 0.8% of patients treated with BENLYSTA and in 0.4% of patients receiving placebo; etiologies included infection, cardiovascular disease, and suicide. In the adult SC clinical trial, death occurred in 0.5% of patients receiving BENLYSTA and in 0.7% of patients receiving placebo; infection was the most common cause of death.

Serious Infections: Serious and sometimes fatal infections have been reported in patients receiving immunosuppressive agents, including BENLYSTA. The most frequent serious infections in adults treated with BENLYSTA IV included pneumonia, urinary tract infection, cellulitis, and bronchitis. Use caution in patients with severe or chronic infections, and consider interrupting therapy in patients with a new infection.

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): Cases of JC virus-associated PML resulting in neurological deficits, including fatal cases, have been reported in patients with SLE receiving immunosuppressants, including BENLYSTA. If PML is confirmed, consider stopping immunosuppressant therapy, including BENLYSTA.

Hypersensitivity Reactions (Including Anaphylaxis): Acute hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis (eg, hypotension, angioedema, urticaria or other rash, pruritus, and dyspnea) and death, have been reported, including in patients who have previously tolerated BENLYSTA. Generally, reactions occurred within hours of the infusion but may occur later. Non-acute hypersensitivity reactions (eg, rash, nausea, fatigue, myalgia, headache, and facial edema) typically occurred up to a week after infusion. Patients with a history of multiple drug allergies or significant hypersensitivity may be at increased risk. With BENLYSTA SC, systemic hypersensitivity reactions were similar to those in IV trials.

Healthcare providers (HCPs) should monitor patients during and after IV administration and be prepared to manage anaphylaxis; discontinue immediately in the event of a serious reaction. Premedication may mitigate or mask a hypersensitivity response. Advise patients about hypersensitivity symptoms and instruct them to seek immediate medical care if a reaction occurs.

Infusion Reactions: Serious infusion reactions (eg, bradycardia, myalgia, headache, rash, urticaria, and hypotension) were reported in adults. HCPs should monitor patients and manage reactions if they occur. Premedication may mitigate or mask a reaction. If an infusion reaction develops, slow or interrupt the infusion.

Depression and Suicidality: In clinical trials, psychiatric disorders (depression, suicidal ideation and behavior) were reported more frequently in patients receiving BENLYSTA than placebo. In adult trials, psychiatric events reported more frequently with BENLYSTA IV related primarily to depression-related events, insomnia, and anxiety; serious psychiatric events included serious depression and suicidality, including 2 completed suicides. No serious depression-related events or suicides were reported in the BENLYSTA SC trial. Before adding BENLYSTA, physicians should assess patients’ risk of depression and suicide and monitor them during treatment. Instruct patients to contact their HCP if they experience new/worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, or other mood changes.

Malignancy: The impact of BENLYSTA on the development of malignancies is unknown; its mechanism of action could increase the risk for malignancies.

Immunization: Live vaccines should not be given for 30 days before or concurrently with BENLYSTA as clinical safety has not been established.

Use With Biologic Therapies or IV Cyclophosphamide: BENLYSTA has not been studied and is not recommended in combination with other biologic therapies, including B-cell targeted therapies, or IV cyclophosphamide.

Adverse Reactions:

The most common serious adverse reactions in adults were serious infections: BENLYSTA IV 6.0% (placebo 5.2%), some of which were fatal. Adverse reactions occurring in ≥3% of adults and ≥1% more than placebo: nausea 15% (12%); diarrhea 12% (9%); pyrexia 10% (8%); nasopharyngitis 9% (7%); bronchitis 9% (5%); insomnia 7% (5%); pain in extremity 6% (4%); depression 5% (4%); migraine 5% (4%); pharyngitis 5% (3%); cystitis 4% (3%); leukopenia 4% (2%); viral gastroenteritis 3% (1%).

Adverse reactions in pediatric patients aged ≥5 years receiving BENLYSTA IV were consistent with those observed in adults.

The safety profile observed for BENLYSTA SC in adults was consistent with the known safety profile of BENLYSTA IV with the exception of local injection site reactions.

Pregnancy and lactation:

Pregnancy: There are insufficient data in pregnant women to establish whether there is drug-associated risk for major birth defects or miscarriage. After a risk/benefit assessment, if prevention is warranted, women of childbearing potential should use contraception during treatment and for ≥4 months after the final treatment.

Lactation: No information is available on the presence of belimumab in human milk, the effects on the breastfed infant, or the effects on milk production. Consider developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding with the mother’s clinical need for BENLYSTA and any potential adverse effects on the breastfed child or from the underlying maternal condition.

Pediatric Use: The safety and effectiveness have not been established for BENLYSTA IV in patients <5 years of age and for BENLYSTA SC in patients <18 years of age.

Black/African American Patients: In clinical trials there have been mixed results regarding how well BENLYSTA works in this patient population. Consider risks and benefits when prescribing BENLYSTA.

About GSK
GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer. For further information please visit

Trademarks are owned by or licensed to the GSK group of companies.


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.

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