Lupus Site - a guide for lupus patients and their families



Newer treatments for Lupus


The following are possible treatments that could be used to treat Lupus in the future. None are currently approved as treatments for lupus.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

The first new drug for mild to moderate lupus to be developed in some time, but has not received FDA approval. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an old drug with potentially important antilupus properties. A natural body substance made by the adrenal gland, DHEA has been available for more than 50 years and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. DHEA is a hormone with male-like properties. Investigators have been interested in male hormones (androgens) because in animal studies they tend to decrease the immune response while female hormones (such as estrogen) tend to amplify it.

DHEA has additional effects that may have widespread implications. In animal models and human studies it has demonstrated potential to decrease obesity, reduce lipid levels, slow or halt osteoporosis, improve cognitive functioning, and increase levels of an important cytokine known as interleukin-2. Levels of DHEA decrease with age, and lupus patients at any age have less DHEA than one might expect.

Several hundred lupus patients have been given the drug in trials, and preliminary evidence suggests that it has anti-inflammatory effects in mild and moderate lupus and can steroid-sparing as well as being well tolerated with antimalarials. The therapeutic dose appears to be in the 50 mg to 200 mg range.

Even though it is premature to make any conclusive statements about DHEA, this hormone is a promising therapy that may be useful for lupus patients with non-organ threatening disease who do not have a complete response to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarials or low dose steroids. It could possibly commercially available in a reliable form in 2-3 years.

What are the side effects of DHEA?

The major side effects encountered thus far include acne and facial hair growth. Some patients have reported headaches, irritability and fluid retention. The drug appears to be well tolerated and is currently being studied in a multicenter, double-blind study that our center has participated in.
Men with lupus should not take DHEA. Post-menopausal women should seek advice from their doctors before taking DHEA and need to be carefully monitored as the drug can increase oestrogen levels.
Do NOT taken DHEA unless it is prescribed by a doctor.


"I am not sure that DHEA is complimentary or whether it is considered a suppiment, but it has worked for me. My physician started me on 200 mg of DHEA a day and I am currently taking 300 mg. I started it because of the Brainfog. It has kept me on an even keel. If I don't take the DHEA I can tell the difference and so can the people around me. I will audio the beginning and ending of sentences but forget the middles. I can tell that I am not doing well, I get "those" looks from family and friends. :-) I have not had any side effects, but I am currently taking steroids and Imuran. How can anything else give me more side effects?? DHEA is NOT a fountain of youth, but it gave my brain a boost that I really needed." Chris Cox




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