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Drug May Offer New Hope For Lupus Patients

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Monday marks the first World Lupus day. For decades, Lupus, a chronic and debilitating illness, has been difficult to diagnose and treat. But as NY1's Health reporter Itay Hod tells us there's now new hope for patients.

Four years ago Karen Ing noticed she was always exhausted. But she dismissed it, thinking it was her workout routine, until one morning she could barely walk.

"It really did take going to the hospital, being told to go to the ER before I knew something was seriously wrong," says Ing.

Ing was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own cells.

Even though this disease is three times more prevalent among Asians than whites, many like Ing don't seek treatment, simply because they've never heard of it.

"People don't think of Lupus, people don't think of Asians, people don't think of lupus and Asians," says Dr. Arthur Yee.

Dr. Yee is a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He says the symptoms are hard to recognize.

Achy joints, extreme fatigue and skin rashes are often dismissed.

"Lupus is so variable from patient to patient," says Dr. Yee. "Sometimes people can develop severe fever and find that they are in kidney failure. In others the course may be quite insidious and can go on for months."

Lupus is not only physically draining it can also be difficult emotionally.

Language barriers and cultural beliefs can make it even harder. That's why some support groups are now focusing on specific ethnicities.

Ing is now part of a support group called Lantern, for Asian patients.

"We can connect better on a personal basis because we share similar values," says Ing.

Now, for the first time in 30 years a new drug may be hitting the market — LJP 394.

It's designed to stop the production of antibodies in Lupus patients without suppressing the immune system.

The drug is still in it final clinical trails, but doctors hope it will become another weapon in a fight against a disease that's been a challenge on so many fronts.

— Itay Hod
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