Background: Idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN), a common cause of nephrotic syndrome in adults, is usually treated with corticosteroids in combination with cyclophosphamide or cyclosporine. A recent placebo-controlled study suggested that tacrolimus monotherapy was effective in IMN. However, the effectiveness of tacrolimus versus classic regimen and its potential nephrotoxicity remain inconclusive. This study evaluated the efficacy and safety of tacrolimus plus prednisone in patients with nephrotic IMN.
Methods: Seventy-three patients with nephrotic IMN were recruited in this multicenter randomized controlled trial, 39 receiving tacrolimus and prednisone, while 34 receiving cyclophosphamide and prednisone. Tacrolimus was given at 0.1 mg/kg/d initially and adjusted to a blood trough level at 5 to 10 ng/mL for 6 months and then reduced to 2 to 5 ng/mL in the subsequent 3 months.
Results: Intention-to-treat analysis suggested that the remission rate at the end of the sixth month was significantly higher in tacrolimus group than that in cyclophosphamide group (85% versus 65%, P < 0.05). The decrease of proteinuria was significantly greater in tacrolimus group. At the end of the 12th month, the remission rates were comparable between these 2 groups. Patients treated with tacrolimus were more likely to develop glucose intolerance (or diabetes mellitus), infection, and hypertension. No obvious nephrotoxicity of calcineurin inhibitor was found in repeat renal biopsy.
Conclusions: Tacrolimus plus corticosteroids is an alternative therapeutic regimen for nephrotic IMN. The short-term efficacy might be better than cyclophosphamide plus prednisone.