Background: Immunosuppressive and cytotoxic agents have been used as both an alternative to oral corticosteroids, and as a means of maintaining a low dose of steroids in the treatment of pulmonary sarcoidosis.
Objectives: To determine the efficacy of immunosuppressive and cytotoxic agents in the treatment of pulmonary sarcoidosis.
Search strategy: CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL were searched for possible randomised trials and bibliographies were checked for other potentially relevant trials. Searches were current as of April 2006.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials comparing an immunosuppressive or cytotoxic therapy with a control in patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis were included in the review.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently extracted data for entry in to the RevMan 4.2. Pharmaceutical companies and study investigators were contacted for unpublished trials.
Main results: Five studies were included in the review. Trials comparing methotrexate, chloroquine, cyclosporin A and pentoxifylline were identified. No data could be combined for a meta-analysis. Data on lung function, chest x-ray scores and dyspnoea were largely inconclusive. Adverse effects were associated with methotrexate, cyclosporin A, chloroquine and pentoxifylline. In two small studies methotrexate and pentoxifylline were associated with a steroid sparing effect. In the methotrexate study this was apparent after 12 months of therapy, but no difference was observed at 6 months.
Authors' conclusions: The current body of evidence supporting the use of immunosuppressive agents and cytotoxic therapies is limited. Side-effects associated with some of the therapies were severe.