Background: Since the introduction of cyclosporine (CsA), 1-year renal allograft survival has improved, but concern persists about the long-term adverse effects of CsA, especially with respect to renal function and blood pressure. This randomized controlled trial was set up to establish whether withdrawal of CsA would alter long-term outcome.
Methods: Adult patients who, at 1 year after renal transplantation, had a stable serum creatinine of less than 300 micromol/L and who had not had acute rejection within the last 6 months were eligible for entry. Patients were randomized either to continue on CsA (n=114) or to stop CsA and start azathioprine (Aza, n=102). All patients remained on prednisolone. Median follow-up was 93 months after transplantation (range: 52-133 months).
Results: There was no significant difference in actuarial 10-year patient or graft survival (Kaplan-Meier), despite an increased incidence of acute rejection within the first few months after conversion. Median serum creatinine was lower in the Aza group (Aza: 119 micromol/L; CsA. 153 micromol/L at 5 years after randomization, P=0.0002). The requirement for antihypertensive treatment was also reduced after conversion to Aza; 75% of patients required antihypertensive treatment at the start of the study, decreasing to 55% from 1 year after randomization in the Aza group and increasing to >80% in the CsA group (55% (Aza) and 84% (CsA) at 5 years after randomization, P<0.005).
Conclusions: Conversion from CsA to Aza at 1 year after renal transplantation results in improvement in both blood pressure control and renal allograft function, and is not associated with significant adverse effects on long-term patient or graft survival.