Background and aim: Leflunomide (Arava) is a cytotoxic drug which has been used as a single agent or in combination with methotrexate for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It appears to have less toxicity than methotrexate. The use of leflunomide for sarcoidosis patients has not been systematically evaluated.
Methods: The records were reviewed from all patients treated at a tertiary sarcoidosis center from July 2002-July 2003, and information from patients treated with either leflunomide or methotrexate was analyzed for efficacy and toxicity.
Results: Thirty-two patients were treated with leflunomide; fifteen patients received concurrent therapy with methotrexate. The most common indications for therapy were ocular and lung disease. Complete or partial response to leflunomide was seen in 12 of 17 treated with leflunomide alone, and 13 of 15 treated with leflunomide plus methotrexate. There was no difference in the response rate for eye [23/28 (82%)] versus pulmonary disease [12/16 (75%)]. Seventeen patients were treated with leflunomide alone because of methotrexate toxicity (nausea in 12 and pulmonary symptoms in five). All but two tolerated leflunomide. Three patients experienced nausea leading to drug discontinuation, but no other serious adverse reaction was encountered with leflunomide.
Conclusion: Leflunomide was well tolerated in patients with chronic sarcoidosis. It appears to be as effective as methotrexate, with less toxicity. It should be considered as an alternative in chronic sarcoidosis patients who cannot tolerate methotrexate.