Objective: The objective of this paper is to evaluate the efficacy of combined mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and tacrolimus (TAC) for lupus nephritis with suboptimal response to standard therapy.
Methods: Inclusion criteria for patients: (1) biopsy-confirmed active lupus nephritis; and (2) inadequate response to ≥ 2 immunosuppressive regimens. While prednisolone (≤ 10 mg/day) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors were continued, immunosuppressive agents were replaced by combined MMF (1 g/day) and TAC (4 mg/day). Patients were followed every 2 months for the clinical response and adverse events at 12 months.
Results: Twenty-one patients were recruited (20 women; age 35.8 ± 9.2 years; systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) duration 111 ± 51 months). The histological classes of lupus nephritis were: IV/III (33%), V+III/IV (33%) and pure V (33%). The creatinine clearance (CrCl), urine protein-to-creatinine ratio (uP/Cr) and serum albumin was 82.4 ± 33 ml/min (<90 ml/min in 57%), 3.27 ± 1.5 and 30.1 ± 5.9 g/l, respectively. Thirteen (62%) patients had active urinary sediments and 17 (81%) patients had active lupus serology. At 12 months, eight (38%) patients had very good response, one (5%) patient had good response and five (24%) patients had partial response. Significant improvement in uP/Cr, albumin, complement C3 and anti-dsDNA titer, and stabilization of CrCl was observed in the responders. Thirty-three adverse events were reported in 18 patients: major infection requiring hospitalization (6%), infection not requiring hospitalization (27%), herpes infection (9%), diarrhea (12%), cramps (9%), dyspepsia (6%), transient increase in serum Cr (6%), alopecia (4%), facial twitching (3%), tremor (3%) and diabetes mellitus (3%). None of these had led to protocol withdrawal.
Conclusions: Combined low-dose MMF and TAC is an option for lupus nephritis that fails to respond adequately to standard regimens, with two-thirds of patients improving after 12 months. Longer-term observation is needed to confirm its efficacy and safety.
Keywords: Glomerulonephritis; nephropathy; recalcitrant; resistant; treatment.