JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Levamisole: adjunctive therapy in steroid dependent minimal change nephrotic children.

In children with minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS), the steroid dependent group constitutes an especially difficult case for management. Patients in this group are prone to serious steroid side effects. Additionally, alkylating agents commonly fail to maintain remission and expose patients to more side effects. Therapy with the immunostimulant drug levamisole may therefore be another option in the attempt to maintain remission with minimal side effects. We prospectively treated 20 of our steroid dependent primary MCNS patients with levamisole. All patients were children, with an age range of 3-15 years; 16 were boys and 4 were girls. Remission was firstly induced by steroids, then levamisole was added in a dose of 2.5 mg/kg body weight on alternate days for 6 months. During this period we attempted to withdraw steroids completely and maintain patients on levamisole alone. We followed up our patients for the occurrence of relapse and side effects during this period and for a further 6 months after stopping levamisole. In 11 out of 20 children (55%), we successfully stopped steroids for more than 2 weeks. At the end of the 6-month treatment period (i.e. after 4 months of steroid discontinuation), ten patients (50%) were maintaining remission on levamisole alone. At the end of the 12-month study period (i.e. after 6 months of levamisole discontinuation), five patients (25%) were still in remission without any treatment for the previous 6 months. No significant side effects were reported during levamisole therapy. None of the patients developed neutropenia, but the leukocyte count showed a significant reduction in those who responded to levamisole treatment. We concluded that levamisole therapy for 6 months is a safe and perhaps effective therapy in a subset of children with steroid dependent MCNS to enable an otherwise infeasible withdrawal of steroids. This may be worth a trial before other types of more hazardous adjunctive therapies are considered.

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