Objective: To determine whether low-dose ciclosporin was a more effective corticosteroid-sparing agent than AZA in patients with SLE.
Methods: Patients with SLE requiring a change or initiation of a corticosteroid-sparing agent and who were taking > or =15 mg of prednisolone/day were randomized to receive either ciclosporin or AZA during this 12-month open-label multi-centre trial. There were strict guidelines for the reduction of prednisolone. The primary outcome was the absolute mean change in prednisolone.
Results: Eighty-nine patients were randomized. Using an intention-to-treat analysis, the absolute mean change in prednisolone dose between baseline and 12 months, adjusted for baseline prednisolone dose, was 9.0 mg for ciclosporin (95% CI 7.2, 10.8) and 10.7 mg for AZA (95% CI 8.8, 12.7). The difference in the change between treatment groups was -1.7 mg (95% CI -4.4, 0.9; P = 0.2). No significant differences were detected for the secondary outcomes: change in disease activity [classic British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) index], number of flares, development of new damage or change in quality of life. A similar number of patients in each arm stopped the study drugs due to adverse events and ineffectiveness. No patient developed severe hypertension or a persistent rise in creatinine. One patient in the ciclosporin arm developed a significant increase in proteinuria due to disease activity.
Conclusions: Both drugs were effective corticosteroid-sparing agents. Ciclosporin was not a more effective corticosteroid-sparing agent. Ciclosporin may be considered in patients who are unable to tolerate AZA. Patients on ciclosporin require close monitoring of blood pressure and creatinine.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials, http://www.controlled-trials.com/, ISRCTN35919612.