The BILAG multi-centre open randomized controlled trial comparing ciclosporin vs azathioprine in patients with severe SLE.

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Objective. To determine whether low-dose ciclosporin was a more effective corticosteroid-sparing agent than AZA in patients with SLE. Methods. Patients with SLE requiring a change or initiation of a corticosteroid-sparing agent and who were taking >/=15 mg of prednisolone/day were randomized to receive either ciclosporin or AZA during this 12-month open-label multi-centre trial. There were strict guidelines for the reduction of prednisolone. The primary outcome was the absolute mean change in prednisolone. Results. Eighty-nine patients were randomized. Using an intention-to-treat analysis, the absolute mean change in prednisolone dose between baseline and 12 months, adjusted for baseline prednisolone dose, was 9.0 mg for ciclosporin (95% CI 7.2, 10.8) and 10.7 mg for AZA (95% CI 8.8, 12.7). The difference in the change between treatment groups was -1.7 mg (95% CI -4.4, 0.9; P = 0.2). No significant differences were detected for the secondary outcomes: change in disease activity [classic British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) index], number of flares, development of new damage or change in quality of life. A similar number of patients in each arm stopped the study drugs due to adverse events and ineffectiveness. No patient developed severe hypertension or a persistent rise in creatinine. One patient in the ciclosporin arm developed a significant increase in proteinuria due to disease activity. Conclusions. Both drugs were effective corticosteroid-sparing agents. Ciclosporin was not a more effective corticosteroid-sparing agent. Ciclosporin may be considered in patients who are unable to tolerate AZA. Patients on ciclosporin require close monitoring of blood pressure and creatinine. Trial registration. Current Controlled Trials,, ISRCTN35919612.


  • Bridget Griffiths
  • Paul Emery
  • Vicky Ryan
  • David Isenberg
  • Mohammed Akil
  • Robert Thompson
  • Peter Maddison
  • Ian D Griffiths
  • Alice Lorenzi
  • Sarah Miles
  • Deva Situnayake
  • Lee Suan Teh
  • Mike Plant
  • Christina Ståhl Hallengren
  • Ola Nived
  • Gunnar Sturfelt
  • Kuntal Chakravarty
  • Tim Tait
  • Caroline Gordon
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-732
JournalRheumatology (Oxford, England)
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch