Which immunosuppressant agents may be effective in the treatment of giant cell arteritis (GCA) (temporal arteritis)?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020
  • Author: Mythili Seetharaman, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Trials of other immunosuppressant agents, including cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, methotrexate, and dapsone, have been attempted for their steroid-sparing effects. Steroid dosages have been lowered successfully but inconsistently in some patients on each of these drugs. Toxicity can be a significant problem, particularly with dapsone and cyclophosphamide. [155]

Limited experience suggests that cyclophosphamide may be the most consistently effective immunosuppressant. It may permit more rapid steroid tapering when instituted after a relapse. Cyclophosphamide may be administered in monthly pulses. [131]

Azathioprine, in an average dosage of 1.5-2.7 mg/kg/day, reduced steroid requirements in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that included 31 patients with GCA, polymyalgia rheumatic, or both. However, the advantage of azathioprine over placebo did not reach statistical significance until 1 year. [156]

Methotrexate has been used as a steroid-sparing agent, in doses of 15-25 mg/wk. However, evidence regarding its efficacy remains inconclusive. [157, 158, 159, 160]

In a formal meta-analysis, adjunctive methotrexate, 7.5-15 mg/wk, reduced the risk of a first relapse by 35% and of a second relapse by 51%. In addition, methotrexate reduced the cumulative exposure to steroids. However, the superiority of the treatment effect of methotrexate over placebo fully appeared only after a latency period of 24-36 weeks, and no between-group difference was noted in the occurrence of adverse events. [158]

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