A comparison of oral methylprednisolone plus azathioprine or mycophenolate mofetil for the treatment of pemphigus

Stefan Beissert*, Thomas Werfel, Uta Frieling, Markus Böhm, Michael Sticherling, Rudolf Stadler, Detlev Zillikens, Berthold Rzany, Nicolas Hunzelmann, Michael Meurer, Harald Gollnick, Thomas Ruzicka, Hans Pillekamp, Volker Junghans, Thomas Luger

*Corresponding author for this work
141 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate the safety and efficacy of oral methylprednisolone combined with azathioprine sodium or mycophenolate mofetil for the treatment of pemphigus. Design: A prospective, multicenter, randomized, non-blinded clinical trial to compare 2 parallel groups of patients with pemphigus (pemphigus vulgaris and pemphigus foliaceus) treated with oral methylprednisolone plus azathioprine or oral methylprednisolone plus mycophenolate mofetil. Settings: Thirteen departments of dermatology in Germany. Patients: We included patients with pemphigus vulgaris (n=33) or pemphigus foliaceus (n=7) evidenced by clinical lesions suggestive of pemphigus, intraepidermal blistering on histological analysis of skin biopsy specimens, intercellular deposition of IgG within the epidermis, and immunoblot analysis findings for antidesmoglein 3 and/or antidesmoglein 1 autoantibodies. Main Outcome Measures: The cumulative total methylprednisolone doses and rate of remission. Secondary outcome measures were safety profiles and duration of remission. Results: In 13 (72%) of 18 patients with pemphigus receiving oral methylprednisolone and azathioprine, complete remission was achieved after a mean±SD of 74±127 days compared with 20 (95%) of 21 patients receiving oral methylprednisolone and mycophenolate mofetil in whom complete remission occurred after a mean±SD of 91±113 days. The total median cumulative methylprednisolone dose used was 8916 mg (SD, ±29 844 mg) in the azathioprine group compared with 9334 mg (SD, ±13 280 mg) in the mycophenolate group. In 6 (33%) of 18 patients treated with azathioprine, grade 3 or 4 adverse effects were documented in contrast to 4 (19%) of 21 patients who received mycophenolate mofetil. Conclusion: Mycophenolate mofetil and azathioprine demonstrate similar efficacy, corticosteroid-sparing effects, and safety profiles as adjuvants during treatment of pemphigus vulgaris and pemphigus foliaceus.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Dermatology
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1447-1454
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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