Double-blind trial of the efficacy of pentoxifylline vs thalidomide for the treatment of type II reaction in leprosy

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2007 Feb;40(2):243-8. doi: 10.1590/s0100-879x2007000200011.


Type II reaction in leprosy, or erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL), is often characterized by severe clinical symptoms together with nerve function impairment leading to permanent disabilities. Thalidomide has been shown to be a highly effective drug for the treatment of ENL. It is, however, contraindicated for women of childbearing age due to its teratogenicity. On the other hand, pentoxifylline, used to treat hypercoagulable states, is not teratogenic and, like thalidomide, can inhibit the synthesis of tumor necrosis factor-a and other cytokines. In the present randomized double-blind clinical study we compared the effectiveness of orally administered pentoxifylline vs thalidomide in treating type II reaction in 44 patients. Daily doses of 300 mg thalidomide or 1.2 g pentoxifylline were administered for 30 days to multibacillary leprosy patients undergoing type II reaction. Randomly chosen patients were included in the study before, during, and after specific multidrug therapy. Clinical evaluations were performed on the 1st, 7th, 14th, 21st, and 30th days of treatment and laboratory tests were carried out on the 1st and 30th days. As expected, overall, thalidomide proved to be more effective in the treatment of type II leprosy reaction. Nevertheless, continuous treatment with pentoxifylline was effective in relieving the clinical signs of ENL, especially limb edema and systemic symptoms, in 62.5% of the patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythema Nodosum / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leprostatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Leprostatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Leprosy, Lepromatous / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pentoxifylline / adverse effects
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use*
  • Thalidomide / adverse effects
  • Thalidomide / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Leprostatic Agents
  • Thalidomide
  • Pentoxifylline