MONDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that a
newer drug works no better than an older, cheaper medication for
patients who need long-term treatment for a type of vasculitis, a
rare blood vessel disorder.
The older drug, azathioprine, "beat out the new kid on the
block," said Dr. Ronald Falk, a kidney specialist familiar with the
findings. But that's not necessarily good news because relapses and
serious side effects are common over time.
Vasculitis strikes about one in every 100,000 people, Falk said.
An overly aggressive response by the immune system causes the blood
vessels of the body to swell, creating problems in the kidneys and
Azathioprine (Azasan) is currently used for long-term treatment
of patients with a form of the disease known as antineutrophil
cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis.
The new study compares the drug to another medication,
mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), which dampens the immune system
and is used in organ transplant patients.
The study, which is to be presented Monday at the American
College of Rheumatology's annual meeting in Atlanta, will appear in
the Dec. 1 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas F. Hiemstra of the University of
Cambridge in England, randomly assigned 156 patients in Europe to
receive one of the two drugs. Patients were more likely to relapse
on the newer drug. Both drugs had about the same level of severe
side effects, the researchers reported.
"Although mycophenolate mofetil is frequently regarded as a potent alternative to azathioprine, we found no evidence to support its use as the initial remission maintenance therapy for patients with AAV," the researchers said in a news release from the journal.
"The issue of how to maintain remission is critically important. At least now these patients can take a less expensive drug that seems to work better," said Falk, director of the University of North Carolina Kidney Center at Chapel Hill.
For more about
vasculitis, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.