Background: Appropriate immunosuppressive therapy for patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy (MN) remains controversial. The effect of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) versus cyclosporine (CsA) combined with low-dose corticosteroids was evaluated in patients with idiopathic MN in a multi-center randomized trial (NCT01282073). Methods: A total of 39 biopsy-proven idiopathic MN patients with severe proteinuria were randomly assigned to receive MMF combined with low-dose corticosteroids (MMF group) versus CsA combined with low-dose corticosteroids (CsA group), respectively, and followed up for 48 weeks. Complete or partial remission rate of proteinuria and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) at 48 weeks were compared. Results: The level of proteinuria at baseline and at 48 weeks was 8.9 ± 5.9 and 2.1 ± 3.1 g/day, respectively, in the MMF group compared to 8.4 ± 3.5 and 3.2 ± 5.7 g/day, respectively, in the CsA group. In total, 76.1% of the MMF group and 66.7% of the CsA group achieved remission at 48 weeks (95% confidence interval, -0.18 to 0.38). There was no difference in eGFR between the two groups. Anti-phospholipase A2 receptor Ab levels at baseline decreased at 48 weeks in the complete or partial remission group (P = 0.001), but were unchanged in the no-response group. There were no significant differences between the two groups in changes in the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale and Gastrointestinal Quality of Life Index scores from baseline to 48 weeks. Conclusion: In combination with low-dose corticosteroids, the effect of MMF may not be inferior to that of CsA in patients with idiopathic MN, with similar adverse effects including gastrointestinal symptoms. Trial registry at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT01282073).
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