On May 10, lupus organizations observed the fourth annual World Lupus Day. Lupus is a potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks various parts of the body. Over 5 million people worldwide, including an estimated 50,000 people in Japan, suffer from the disease. They struggle daily not only with the debilitating symptoms of the disease but also serious side effects of high doses of steroids and immunosuppressive agents they have to take to control their disease.

In this age of medical advances, no new drugs for Lupus have been approved in over 40 years. Despite the severity of the disease and a relative large number of the patients, lupus has long been neglected by the medical community, and the research to develop new drugs has been underfunded in comparison with other diseases of comparable severity. Dr. Daniel J. Wallace, a prominent clinician on lupus, noted in “The Lupus Book” that the medical community and pharmaceutical industry would be more responsive if lupus were not such a gender-biased disease: 90 percent of lupus patients are women, most of whom are in the prime of their lives.

Efforts to generate public awareness and facilitate study of a cause and cure for lupus are gaining momentum, however, especially in the U.S. As a Japanese patient with lupus, I hope that similar levels of momentum will be built in Japan.