Background: IgA nephropathy is progressive in most cases and has no established therapy. In this randomised trial, we assessed the efficacy and safety of a 6-month course of steroids in this disorder.
Methods: Between July, 1987, and September, 1995, we enrolled 86 consecutive patients from seven renal units in Italy. Eligible patients had biopsy-proven IgA nephropathy, urine protein excretion of 1.0-3.5 g daily, and plasma creatinine concentrations of 133 micromol/L (1.5 mg/dL) or less. Patients were randomly assigned either supportive therapy alone or steroid treatment (intravenous methylprednisolone 1 g per day for 3 consecutive days at the beginning of months 1, 3, and 5, plus oral prednisone 0.5 mg/kg on alternate days for 6 months). The primary endpoint was deterioration in renal function defined as a 50% or 100% increase in plasma creatinine concentration from baseline. Analyses were by intention to treat.
Findings: Nine of 43 patients in the steroid group and 14 of 43 in the control group reached the primary endpoint (a 50% increase in plasma creatinine) by year 5 of follow-up (p<0.048). Factors influencing renal survival were vascular sclerosis (relative risk for 1-point increase in score 1.53, p=0.0347), female sex (0.22, p=0.0163), and steroid therapy (0.41, p=0.0439). All 43 patients assigned steroids completed the treatment without experiencing any important side-effects.
Interpretation: A 6-month course of steroid treatment protected against deterioration in renal function in IgA nephropathy with no notable adverse effects during follow-up. An increase in urinary protein excretion could be a marker indicating the need for a second course of steroid therapy.