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Pemphigus is a chronic, muco-cutaneous autoimmune blistering disorder; two main variants being pemphigus vulgaris (PV) and pemphigus foliaceus (PF). PV is the most common subtype, varying between 75 to 92% of total pemphigus patients. Although no community based studies are undertaken to estimate the incidence of pemphigus in India, it is relatively common. A questionnaire based survey in Thrissur district of south India estimated pemphigus incidence to be 4.4 per million population. Mortality due to pemphigus has decreased remarkably with the aggressive and widespread use of corticosteroids, prior to which it was as high as 90%. High dose corticosteroids were once used in combination with other immunosuppressants with good improvement, but such high doses of corticosteroids were often associated with severe side effects, and were responsible for the death of nearly 10% of the patients. With the aim of reducing the adverse effects of long term, high dose steroid administration dexamethasone cyclophosphamide pulse (DCP) therapy was introduced in 1984. Since then DCP or oral corticosteroids with or without adjuvant immunosuppressants (azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolatemofetil, and cyclosporine) have been the corner-stone of therapy for these disorders in India. Despite the benefits associated with DCP therapy compared to high dose oral steroids, it cannot be denied that even DCP therapy with or without adjuvants can lead to numerous adverse events, which account for majority of deaths in pemphigus. Moreover there are few patients who fail to improve with these conventional treatments or have contraindications for their usage. Thus there has been a constant search for newer therapeutic modalities in pemphigus. Rituximab (Reditux. Dr. Reddy’s, Hyderabad, India and MabThera TM , Roche, Basel, Switzerland), a monoclonal chimeric IgG1 antibody targeting the B cell specific cell-surface antigen CD20, is one such newer novel therapy for pemphigus (an off-label indication for its use. It has so far been approved by FDA for use only in CD 20+ B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, treatment resistant rheumatoid arthritis, Wegener’s granulomatosis and microscopic polyangiitis).

There is currently no consensus on the optimal dosage and schedule of rituximab in treatment of pemphigus. The various treatment protocols followed include:

  1. Lymphoma protocol- Most commonly followed protocol. Rituximab is administered at a dose of 375mg/m 2 body surface area weekly for four weeks.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis protocol- Two doses of rituximab 1g is administered at an interval of 15 days. Increasingly used by dermatologists and is the protocol currently followed in our institute. Advantage over the lymphoma protocol include less cost and fewer infusions.
  3. Combination therapy- Rituximab has been used in combination with IVIG, immunoadsorption and dexamethasone pulse therapy
  4. Long-term rituximab treatment with regular infusions every 4 or 12 weeks following an induction cycle of infusions every week

Full article can be viewed at: http://www.ijdvl.com/article.asp?issn=0378-6323;year=2012;volume=78;issue=6;spage=671;epage=676;aulast=Kanwar

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Background  The classic treatment for pemphigus vulgaris is prednisolone. Immunosuppressive drugs can be used in association.

Objective  To compare the efficacy of Azathioprine in reducing the Disease Activity Index (DAI).

Patients and methods  A double blind randomized controlled study was conducted on 56 new patients, assigned to two therapeutic groups: (i) prednisolone plus placebo; (ii) prednisolone plus Azathioprine. Patients were checked regularly for 1 year. ‘Complete remission’ was defined as healing of all lesions after 12 months, and prednisolone <7.5 mg daily, (DAI ≤ 1). Analysis was done by ‘Intention To Treat’ (ITT) and ‘Treatment Completed Analysis’ (TCA).

Results  Both groups were similar in age, gender, disease duration, and DAI. Primary endpoint: By ITT and TCA, the mean DAI improved in both groups with no significant difference between them. The difference became significant for the last trimester (3 months; ITT:P = 0.033, TCA: P = 0.045). Secondary endpoint: The total steroid dose decreased significantly in both groups, with no significant difference between them, except for the last trimester (ITT: P = 0.011, TCA: P = 0.035). The mean daily steroid dose decreased gradually in both groups becoming statistically significant in favour of azathioprine, in the last trimester, especially at 12th months (ITT: P = 0.002, TCA:P = 0.005). Complete remission was significant at 12 months only for TCA (AZA/Control: 53.6%/39.9%, P = 0.043).

Limitations  Sample size was rather small to demonstrate all differences. Other limitations include the choice of primary and secondary endpoints and the unavailability to measure thiopurine methyltransferase activity.

Conclusion  Azathioprine helps to reduce prednisolone dose in long-run.

Full article available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2012.04717.x/abstract;jsessionid=4F8C646E8902BB54AC0026B542EF91FD.d03t01

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  This article reviews the use of MMF for the treatment of several bullous conditions, and assesses the evidence gathered from clinical trials and case series. According to numerous case series, MMF could be of value in treating refractory disease. The few randomized clinical trials conducted to date of patients with pemphigus and bullous pemphigoid report a similar efficacy for MMF to other immunosuppressants. (Source: Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America)

from MedWorm: Pemphigus http://www.medworm.com/index.php?rid=6018247&cid=c_297_3_f&fid=33229&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.immunology.theclinics.com%2Farticle%2FPIIS0889856112000252%2Fabstract%3Frss%3Dyes