What is the efficacy of drug treatment for pemphigus vulgaris?

Updated: Jun 14, 2018
  • Author: Bassam Zeina, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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The introduction of corticosteroids has reduced mortality greatly, but significant morbidity remains. Immunosuppressants should be considered early in the course of disease, as steroid-sparing agents. Mycophenolate mofetil and azathioprine are the usual agents considered as initial choices. [65, 66] Some suggest measuring levels of thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT), a key enzyme in azathioprine metabolism, before starting patients on azathioprine. [67, 68, 69] Only one placebo-controlled blinded study of mycophenolate has demonstrated more rapid improvement in the short run but no significant steroid-sparing effects in the long term. [70] A retrospective chart review has suggested a therapeutic ladder for patients with pemphigus vulgaris, but these authors' approach has not been validated. [71] Rituximab and intravenous immunoglobulin have also proven useful alone or in combination, and some authorities are now using rituximab as first-line therapy for severe disease. [72] Rituximab was approved by the FDA for the treatment of pemphigus vulgaris in June 2018. [75]

A small case control trial showed improved laboratory and clinical outcomes in patients with pemphigus vulgaris treated with a combination of cytotoxic agents plus intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)compared with those treated with just IVIG. [73]

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