Early Remission in Lupus Nephritis May Not Bar Advanced CKD

SEOUL, South Korea – Nearly 8% of people with lupus nephritis who achieve complete remission of disease within 1 year of starting treatment will still go on to develop advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to a presentation at an international congress on systemic lupus erythematosus.

Rheumatologist Dafna Gladman, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and codirector of the Lupus Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital, showed data from the Lupus Clinic’s prospective longitudinal cohort study in 273 patients with confirmed lupus nephritis who achieved complete remission within 12 months of baseline.

Remission was defined as less than 0.5 g proteinuria over 24 hours, inactive urinary sediment, and serum creatinine less than 120% of baseline.

Of this group, 21 (7.7%) progressed to advanced CKD during follow-up, which ranged from 0.7 to 31.7 years with a median of 5.8 years, after enrollment.

Patients who had experienced at least one flare during their first 5 years were around 4.5 times more likely to progress to advanced CKD than were those who did not experience a flare.

While the study excluded patients who already had advanced CKD, the analysis found those with evidence of impaired kidney function at baseline also had more than a fourfold higher risk of developing advanced CKD.

Other significant risk factors for progression were having low complement C3 levels at baseline and having had a longer duration of disease before enrollment.

“Those patients already have abnormal renal function, so the message is that patients who are already in trouble, you’ve got to watch them very carefully,” Dr. Gladman said in an interview.

The study also looked at whether there was a difference between patients who developed advanced CKD earlier – before the median of 5.8 years – or later. While the numbers were small, Dr. Gladman said patients who progressed earlier tended to be older and were more likely to be on antihypertensive treatment and have lower estimated glomerular filtration rate and a lower Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index–2K, compared with those who progressed later. Some patients also were noncompliant and/or experienced concomitant infections; four had moderate to severe interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy.

“We conclude that such patients should be monitored closely despite early remission, and we also highlight the importance of maintenance therapy, which should be communicated to the patients to prevent noncompliance and subsequent flare,” Dr. Gladman told the conference.

Dr. Gladman said her clinic told patients from the very beginning of their treatment that they would need to be seen at 2- to 6-month intervals, regardless of how well their disease was doing.

Commenting on the presentation, rheumatologist Mandana Nikpour MD, PhD, of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, said the findings showed the importance of keeping a close eye on patients with lupus nephritis, even if their disease appears to be in remission.

“If you’ve had nephritis, and you go into remission, you may already have a degree of damage in your kidneys,” said Dr. Nikpour, also from the University of Melbourne. “If there’s a degree of uncontrolled hypertension, or if a patient is noncompliant with their treatment, and there’s a degree of grumbling disease activity, that can all conspire and add up to result in long-term kidney damage and loss of renal function.”

Dr. Gladman has received grants or research support from, or has consulted for, Amgen, AbbVie, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Novartis, Pfizer, UCB, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Galapagos, and Gilead.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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