JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Short-term effect of leflunomide in patients with Takayasu arteritis: an observational study.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the efficacy of leflunomide in controlling disease activity in patients with Takayasu arteritis (TA) refractory or intolerant to conventional treatment.

METHODS: We conducted a prospective open-label study of 15 TA patients (mean age 36.2 years) with active disease based on clinical assessment, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). Patients received leflunomide 20 mg/day for at least 6 months and were followed up for a mean of 9.1 months. Adverse events attributable to leflunomide were recorded.

RESULTS: At baseline, 14 TA patients had active disease despite therapy with corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents, while one patient had intolerance to current treatment. In the follow-up visit, we found a significant decrease in the frequency of patients with active TA (93% vs. 20%, p = 0.002), in the mean daily dose of prednisone (34.2 vs. 13.9 mg, p < 0.001) and in the median values of ESR (29.0 vs. 27.0 mm/h, p = 0.012) and CRP (10.3 vs. 5.3 mg/L, p = 0.012). Two patients (13.3%) developed new angiographic lesions in the follow-up MRA. Three patients (20%) experienced mild adverse events during the study and none discontinued therapy.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first open-label study to demonstrate improvement in disease activity and acute phase reactants with 20 mg/day of leflunomide in TA patients who were refractory or intolerant to conventional therapy with corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents. Leflunomide was safe and a steroid-sparing effect was observed. A double-blind controlled study is desirable to confirm this finding.

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