Objective: To examine the safety and efficacy of methotrexate (MTX) plus low-dose prednisolone for induction of remission in non life- or organ-threatening courses and for remission maintenance in Churg-Strauss syndrome (CSS).
Methods: In an open-label study 11 patients were treated with MTXfor induction of remission at initial diagnosis and relapse. Twenty-five patients received MTX for maintenance of remission. Primary endpoints were the achievement of remission and the incidence of relapses, respectively. Doses of concomitant prednisolone (PRD) and side effects were secondary endpoints.
Results: Induction of remission was achieved in 8/11 patients with MTX/PRD. Median time to remission was 5 months (range 2-9). Remission was maintained in 12 of 23 with available long-term follow-up (median 48 months). Eleven patients experienced 8 major and 3 minor relapses with a median time from remission to first relapse of 9 months. With MTX, the median cumulative PRD dose during the induction phase was 6.2 g. In the maintenance phase PRD could be reduced by 53% in responders. Apart from one case of MTX-induced pneumonitis, adverse events were confined to mild/moderate episodes of infection and leucopenia. No opportunistic infections occurred, neither did steroid-specific adverse events.
Conclusions: MTX is safe and effective for the induction of remission in non-life-threatening CSS. It allows a considerable reduction of PRD and thus avoidance of PRD-related adverse events. However, the ability of MTX to prevent relapses in CSS appears limited. The identification of an optimal maintenance regimen and prognostic factors for treatment response requires trials with larger patient numbers.