DESTIN, FLA. – Management of lupus nephritis during pregnancy gets close attention in ACR’s new nephritis guidelines.
No treatment is necessary in pregnant women with prior lupus nephritis who have no current evidence of systemic or renal disease activity, while those with mild systemic activity may be treated with hydroxychloroquine, according to the guidelines, which are published in the June issue of Arthritis Care & Research.
"There are good data suggesting hydroxychloroquine controls lupus in women who are pregnant, resulting in fewer flares" Dr. Bevra H. Hahn said at the Congress of Clinical Rheumatology. Dr. Hahn, professor of medicine and chief of the division of rheumatology at the University of California, Los Angeles, led the ACR core working group that helped with development of the guidelines.
In patients with clinically active nephritis or with substantial extrarenal disease activity, glucocorticoids may be prescribed at doses necessary to control disease activity (Arthritis Care Res. 2012;64:797-08).
"I start at 0.5 mg/kg per day," Dr. Hahn said of glucocorticoids under these circumstances. She noted that only steroids that are metabolized by placental enzymes should be used so that the drug does not reach the fetus.
She and her coauthors cautioned, however, that high-dose glucocorticoid therapy is associated with a high risk of maternal complications – including hypertension and diabetes mellitus – in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). They also stress that mycophenolate mofetil, cyclophosphamide, and methotrexate should be avoided in pregnancy, because they are established human teratogens.
Azathioprine, though listed as pregnancy category D indicating teratogenic risk, has been shown in cross-sectional studies to be associated with very low risk of fetal abnormalities and can be added if necessary, according to the task force panel charged with developing the guidelines.
The azathioprine dose, however, should not exceed 2 mg/kg per day in pregnant women, Dr. Hahn said.
The task force has recommended that pregnant patients with a persistently active nephritis and documented or suspected class III or IV disease with crescents may be candidates for delivery after 28 weeks if the fetus is viable. The recommendations with respect to pregnancy were based on level C evidence, indicating they were based on consensus, expert opinion, and case series.
For women with SLE and nephritis who are not pregnant, but who have concerns about fertility preservation, the task force panel recommended that mycophenolate mofetil was preferable to cyclophosphamide for induction therapy, because cyclophosphamide has been shown to cause permanent infertility in both women and men.
For example, one study showed that 6 months of high-dose intravenous cyclophosphamide with a cumulative dose of 4.4 g-10 g was associated with sustained amenorrhea in about 10% of young women, and the risk increased with age.
However, the physician should be certain the patient is not pregnant before prescribing mycophenolate mofetil or mycophenolic acid, and treatment should be stopped for at least 6 weeks before pregnancy is attempted.
The guidelines were sponsored by the American College of Rheumatology via a competitive grant mechanism. Dr. Hahn has received consultant fees, speaking fees, and/or honoraria from UCB and Abbott and has served on the data and safety monitoring board for Anthera. The complete list of disclosures for the guideline authors is available with the full text of the article.