Current trends in immunosuppressive therapies for renal transplant recipients

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2012 Nov 15;69(22):1961-75. doi: 10.2146/ajhp110624.


Purpose: Current trends in immunosuppressive therapies for renal transplant recipients are reviewed.

Summary: The common premise for immunosuppressive therapies in renal transplantation is to use multiple agents to work on different immunologic targets. The use of a multidrug regimen allows for pharmacologic activity at several key steps in the T-cell replication process and lower dosages of each individual agent, thereby producing fewer drug-related toxicities. In general, there are three stages of clinical immunosuppression: induction therapy, maintenance therapy, and treatment of an established acute rejection episode. Only immunosuppressive therapies used for maintenance therapy are discussed in detail in this review. The most common maintenance immunosuppressive agents can be divided into five classes: (1) the calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) (cyclosporine and tacrolimus), (2) costimulation blockers (belatacept), (3) mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors (sirolimus and everolimus), (4) antiproliferatives (azathioprine and mycophenolic acid derivatives), and (5) corticosteroids. Immunosuppressive regimens vary among transplantation centers but most often include a CNI and an adjuvant agent, with or without corticosteroids. Selection of appropriate immunosuppressive regimens should be patient specific, taking into account the medications' pharmacologic properties, adverse-event profile, and potential drug-drug interactions, as well as the patient's preexisting diseases, risk of rejection, and medication regimen.

Conclusion: Advancements in transplant immunosuppression have resulted in a significant reduction in acute cellular rejection and a modest increase in long-term patient and graft survival. Because the optimal immunosuppression regimen is still unknown, immunosuppressant use should be influenced by institutional preference and tailored to the immunologic risk of the patient and adverse-effect profile of the drug.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control*
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney Transplantation / methods*
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors


  • Immunosuppressive Agents