Immune drug helps kidney disorder patients

Findings could help people living with idiopathic membranous nephropathy to avoid taking the potentially toxic medications.

August 4, 2012 00:19
2 minute read.
Kidney Dialysis

Kidney Dialysis 370. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

Washington, DC — A drug commonly used to treat immune disorders such as lymphoma and arthritis also benefits patients with an immune disorder of the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of new study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). The findings could help people who are living with the condition, called idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN), avoid taking the potentially toxic medications that are currently prescribed to treat it.

Standard therapy for IMN includes nonspecific immunosuppression with steroids and other agents that do not work in all patients and can cause serious complications. Because the drug rituximab specifically targets immune cells involved in the development and progression of IMN, Piero Ruggenenti, MD, Giuseppe Remuzzi, MD, FRCP (Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research and Ospedali Riuniti, in Bergamo, Italy) and their colleagues tested its safety and effectiveness in 100 patients with IMN. The looked to see how many patients experienced complete or partial remission, based on the amount of protein excreted in the urine.

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Among the major findings:
• Over an average of 29 months, 65 out of the 100 patients taking rituximab treatment experienced remission of their disease. Twenty-seven of these patients achieved complete remission.
• All patients with at least four years of follow-up achieved complete or partial remission, and their kidney function improved over time.
• Rituximab was effective even when previous treatments with steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs had failed.
• Patients tolerated rituximab well and experienced no treatment-related serious side effects throughout the entire study.

“Rituximab may lead to major progress in the treatment of patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy, and in consideration of its excellent safety profile, it might replace other toxic regimens as first line treatment of this disease,” said Dr. Remuzzi.

An added benefit of rituximab is that it can be administered in one single intravenous infusion on an outpatient basis, while courses of steroids and other drugs for IMN require at least six months of continued treatment and often cause patients to become hospitalized due to complications.

Study co-authors include Paolo Cravedi, MD, PhD, Antonietta Chianca, PhD, Annalisa Perna, StatSciD, Barbara Ruggiero, MD, Flavio Gaspari, PhD, Alessandro Rambaldi, MD, and Maddalena Marasà, MD.

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures.

The content of this article does not reflect the views or opinions of The American Society of Nephrology (ASN). Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the author(s). ASN does not offer medical advice. All content in ASN publications is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions, or adverse effects. This content should not be used during a medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider if you have any questions about a medical condition, or before taking any drug, changing your diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment. Do not ignore or delay obtaining professional medical advice because of information accessed through ASN. Call 911 or your doctor for all medical emergencies.

Founded in 1966, and with more than 13,500 members, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) leads the fight against kidney disease by educating health professionals, sharing new knowledge, advancing research, and advocating the highest quality care for patients.

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