Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lupus Health Center

Font Size

Could Drug Containing DHEA Be an Answer for Lupus?

WebMD Health News

June 23, 2000 -- As anyone who lives with lupus can tell you, it's sometimes hard to tell which is worse, the disease or the treatment. So any new therapy that might allow them to take less of their usual medications is likely to generate plenty of interest.

One new medication may hold promise. It combines two drugs: prasterone and DHEA, a common over-the-counter supplement. The medication may reduce the severity of several minor symptoms, but it also may decrease the level of HDL "good" cholesterol in the body, according to researchers who presented their findings at a meeting of metabolic specialists in Toronto.

People with lupus often have rashes that come and go, pain in the muscles and joints, and fatigue. Because the disease is caused by an overactive immune system, medications used to treat it, such as steroids, are meant to reduce the immune system's activity. The standby treatment for these patients is a steroid called prednisone, which is very different from the anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders.

Steroids, which also are used to treat conditions such as arthritis and asthma, are very effective, but long-term use can cause a host of problems, ranging from acne and bloating to osteoporosis.

Alice Baker, a Houston-based public relations specialist with lupus, explains the dilemma these patients face. "The muscle aches are so severe that I feel like my body is vibrating," she tells WebMD. But because the prednisone-related side effects are so severe, and because her lupus is not severe enough to cause damage to her kidneys or other organs, she takes prednisone only when her lupus flares up.

Susan Lobb of Denver is 53 years old and has had broken bones from prednisone. "Everyone with lupus wants a new medication," she tells WebMD. "Prednisone is a serious problem."

Doctors and patients are keeping a close eye on DHEA because it may help patients take lower doses of steroids and, they hope, decrease the side effects of prednisone. DHEA has long been known to suppress the immune system, researcher Robert Lahita, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. He is chief of rheumatology at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City and professor of medicine at New York Medical College.

Today on WebMD

grocery shopping list
And the memory problems that may come with it.
Lupus rash on nails
A detailed, visual guide.
sunburst filtering through leaves
You might be extra sensitive to UV light. Read on.
fruit drinks
For better focus in your life.
Woman rubbing shoulder
Bag of cosmetics
young woman hiding face
pregnant woman
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Young adult couple
doctor advising patient
sticky notes on face

WebMD Special Sections