Lupus patients who previously needed to visit an infusion center to receive the drug Benlysta, now have the option to administer the medicine themselves at home using a novel “auto-injector” device, thanks in part to the efforts of Dr. Saira Sheikh, a UNC rheumatologist and allergist/immunologist who directs the lupus and clinical trials programs at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

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Dr. Saira Sheikh

Dr. Saira Sheikh was recently invited to share her expertise during an educational session at the live national broadcast of the launch of the subcutaneous Benlysta auto-injector. She discussed day-to-day challenges faced by lupus patients, therapeutic approaches in lupus, and the Benlysta auto-injector clinical trial. Dr. Sheikh was principal investigator of the clinical trial and first author of research published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology which outlines the patient experience with the auto-injector device.

Dr. Sheikh is an assistant professor in the division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology pursuing unique, “next generation” clinical trials focusing on direct molecular pathways to find new ways to treat lupus. Historically, treatment options for lupus have been limited to medications borrowed from other disease states such as arthritis, cancer, and organ transplant – to name a few.

“We are exploring very direct, specific and innovative approaches that we hope will change the way lupus is treated, and ultimately transform the lives of our patients,” said Saira Sheikh, MD, director of the TARC Clinical Trials Program.

Pursuing a more direct treatment approach, clinical trials conducted at TARC explore novel and innovative therapies that specifically target molecular pathways involved in the pathogenesis of lupus. In addition, they provide hope and options for patients who are refractory to currently available therapies. The goal is to develop highly targeted approaches tailored to treat the specific manifestations of this very heterogeneous disease with fewer side effects.