Mycophenolate mofetil in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2011 Sep;23(5):454-8. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e328349a1e5.


Purpose of review: Clinicians are increasingly using mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This review will discuss the key studies that have contributed to our understanding of the efficacy and safety of MMF in the treatment of SLE.

Recent findings: The Aspreva Lupus Management Study (ALMS) firmly established that MMF is equivalent to intravenous pulse cyclophosphamide (IVC) for the induction treatment of lupus nephritis. In addition, MMF was shown to be superior to azathioprine in decreasing the incidence of treatment failure during maintenance therapy. A posthoc analysis of the induction phase of ALMS suggested that MMF also improved nonrenal manifestations of SLE. In contrast to the ALMS maintenance results, a European trial concluded that MMF and azathioprine were equivalent in the ability to prevent renal flare after induction treatment with low-dose IVC.

Summary: Favorable efficacy and safety results of several clinical trials conducted over the past 10 years have led to the adoption of MMF for the treatment of lupus nephritis and nonrenal lupus. Future research will be important to more fully understand the best dosing regimen of MMF for induction versus maintenance treatment, total duration of treatment, and the utility of therapeutic monitoring of MMF levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / metabolism
  • Lupus Nephritis / drug therapy
  • Lupus Nephritis / metabolism
  • Mycophenolic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Mycophenolic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Remission Induction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Azathioprine