Two studies presented on June 14 in Amsterdam at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology spell promising results for lupus patients.

The first, a phase II clinical study of 314 patients, shows that baricitinib — an oral Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor — significantly helped lupus patients. “Our results demonstrated significant clinical improvements in lupus patients taking baricitinib versus placebo with an acceptable side effect profile,” said study author Daniel Wallace, of University of California-Los Angeles, in a EULAR news release.

Current biologics used to target lupus focus on B cells, due to their role in the development of the disease, but emerging research addresses the interferon pathway and other cytokines, according to the release. The new research found that patients randomly assigned to 4 mg daily doses of baricitinib had greater resolution of arthritis or rash and had reduction of lupus flares and less tender joints compared to the placebo group.

But, the release adds, rates of harmful events that led to discontinuation were higher for both the 4 mg and a 2 mg baricitinib group than they were for the placebo.

The second study, of 90 patients, reveals that the shingles vaccine benefits lupus patients, who are 10 times likelier to have shingles as is the general public. Guidelines about shingles vaccines for lupus patients have been lacking due, largely, to a lack of experimental data and concern of infection, the release notes.

“Our study showed that the live attenuated shingles vaccine was well tolerated and provoked
an expected antibody response in stable lupus patients not receiving intensive immunosuppression,” said study author C.C. Mok, of Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun Hospital, in the release. “This is the first randomised controlled trial to study the shingles vaccine in individuals with lupus.”

Six weeks out, the patients who received the shingles vaccine had a 59.8 percent increase in antibody levels, while the control group had a 2.1 percent reduction in antibodies, “demonstrating the effect of the vaccine,” the release notes.