In the past 40 years, prognosis for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has improved, with 10-year survival now approximately 90%. This is due probably to a combination of earlier disease diagnosis and diagnosis of milder disease, due in part to availability of multiple serological tests for SLE, use of steroids and other immunosuppressive agents, and availability of renal dialysis and transplantation. Despite this, however, the potential for significant morbidity and mortality remains in the group of patients with partially responsive or treatment resistant disease. More recently, advancements in the understanding of molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of SLE have translated to the development of novel therapies, offering possible alternatives to this patient cohort. Discussion of these pharmacological options and ongoing research forms the basis of this review.