Learn About Lupus Medications from the Brooklyn Stop on the 2013 Hospital Tour

"Lupus and the Effect of Medication"

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose and treat because symptoms vary from person to person and there is a lack of medications specifically for treating lupus. The Brooklyn stop of the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s annual Hospital Tour focused on medications used to treat lupus, their side effects, and medication safety. Here are highlights of the presentations for those who could not attend.


Mona Pervil-Ulysse provided an overview of the clinical manifestations of lupus and how it is diagnosed,and then discussed various treatments for lupus and the side effects.

Overview of Lupus

  • Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that predominantly affects women.
  • Diagnosis is based on having 4 or more of 11 criteria and blood tests.
  • There are many different manifestations of lupus including issues with the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, central nervous system, and joint pain.

The Effects of Medications Used to Treat Lupus

Lupus can be treated with different types of medications depending on how the complications or manifestations it causes. The treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, immunosuppressive medications, and anti-malarial medications.

  • Steroids are used to treat acute lupus flares.
  • Chronic disease involving skin and joints are treated with =hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and/or methotrexate (Rheumatrex or Trexall).
  • Lupus nephritis may be treated with steroids alone or in combination with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) or mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept). Azathioprine (Imuran or Azasan) is used if another treatment fails.
  • Refractory lupus, meaning that treatment has failed or not worked as well as possible,is treated with belimumab (Benlysta®).
  • While these medications can have negative side effects, there are many positive benefits. The 5-year survival rate for lupus is greater than 90% and the 10-year survival rate is over 80%.
  • Some key points from the talk:
    • Hydroxychloroquine is a great drug for treating lupus patients and has been proven to reduce the incidence of stroke.
    • Benlysta is not used for kidney involvement.  It works for fatigue, joint and muscle pain.  It also helps the immune system to fight off infection.
    • Drugs with the suffix “mab” (belimumab) are the most potent drugs that we currently have to treat connective tissue disorders.

Dr. Mona Pervil-Ulysse was followed by Health Educator Luz Martinez who talked about medicine safety and the resources available through the NYC Poison Control Center. She encouraged patients to speak to their doctors about the medications that they are prescribed and to ask them specific questions (what is the medication for, what happens if I forget to take my medication, etc.).  She also encouraged patients to call the NYC Poison Control Center if they have questions about any of the medications that they are taking. 

Medicine Safety

The NYC Poison Control Center offers a telephone hotline 1-800-222-1222 or 212-POISONS (212-764-7667) that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The hotline is answered by pharmacists and nurses and has translation services available.

  • Having all prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy can help screen for potential interactions.
  • Keep track of medicines using a pill box organizer and a medicine log.
  • Store medicine safely – use child-resistant containers and keep medicine in the original containers.


Dr. Mona Pervil-Ulysse was born and raised in Haiti, until she was ten, and has since been living in Brooklyn.  She received a B.A. in Biology from Brooklyn College and then completed the first two years of medical school Universidad del Noreste in Mexico and the last two years at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Bronx Lebanon Hospital. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Kings County Hospital and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY and proceeded to fellowship training specializing in Rheumatology. She is currently the Chief pof Rheumatology at Interfaith Medical Center and a attending Physician at New York Methodist Hospital. She serves the community in many capacities including as a member of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad, an organization dedicated to providing free medical care to the people of Haiti.

Luz Martinez is a health educator and has been with the NYC Poison Control Center for 10 years. 

For more information -

You can find more information on lupus and medications here.

If you missed any stops on the 2013 NYC Hospital Tour, summaries are available for "Skin Care, Weight Control, and Feeling Good with Lupus" and "Lupus and You: Signs, Symptoms, Medications and Outcomes"