Objective: Iloprost is a stable prostacyclin analogue which has been shown to be effective in the short-term symptomatic treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) secondary to systemic sclerosis (SSc). The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of long-term cyclic therapy with iloprost in comparison with nifedipine on the skin score, pulmonary function and Raynaud's severity score in patients with SSc and RP.
Methods: We conducted a 12-month prospective, randomised, parallel-group, blind-observer trial to compare the effects of intravenously infused iloprost (2 ng/kg/min on 5 consecutive days over a period of 8 hours/day and subsequently for 8 hours on one day every 6 weeks) with those of conventional vasodilating therapy with nifedipine (40 mg/day for os) in 46 patients with SSc and RP.
Results: At 12 months, iloprost but not nifedipine reduced the skin score (iloprost: from 13.26 +/- 2.05 to 9.26 +/- 1.32, p = 0.002; nifedipine: from 10.83 +/- 2.09 to 12.17 +/- 3.02, p = n.s.; iloprost vs nifedipine: p = 0.016) and the RP severity score (iloprost: from 2.17 +/- 0.2 to 1.22 +/- 0.13, p = 0.02 vs baseline; nifedipine: from 2.08 +/- 0.34 to 1.33 +/- 0.22, p = n.s.). Carbon monoxide diffusing capacity (DLCO), expressed as % of the predicted normal value, worsened significantly in the nifedipine group (from 69.6 +/- 7.4% to 61.5 +/- 6.5%, p = 0.044) and remained stable in patients treated with iloprost (from 53.2 +/- 4.8 to 56.0 +/- 4.6%, iloprost vs nifedipine: p = 0.026).
Conclusion: In SSc patients, cyclic intravenous iloprost infusion is able to control vasospastic disease. Our results suggest that it might also act as a disease-modifying agent, as it seems to improve the course of the disease. Further studies principally focused on organ involvement and the natural history of the disease are needed to confirm our results.