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Intravenous gammaglobulin has no advantages over oral corticosteroids as primary therapy for adults with immune thrombocytopenia: a prospective randomized clinical trial.

Author(s): Jacobs P, Wood L, Novitzky N

Affiliation(s): University of Cape Town Leukaemia Centre, Republic of South Africa.

Publication date & source: 1994-07, Am J Med., 97(1):55-9.

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Randomized Controlled Trial

Symptomatic immune thrombocytopenia in adults is potentially lethal, and, when conventionally treated with oral corticosteroid agents, approximately two thirds of patients will have some response in platelet count, but this is seldom durable. Since cytotoxic drugs are of limited benefit at this stage, splenectomy becomes necessary in 70% of patients. Intravenous gammaglobulin has been advocated as an alternative to prednisone as the primary form of treatment. A prospective, randomized comparison was carried out between oral prednisone (1 mg/kg/day; group 1; n = 17), high-dose intravenous gammaglobulin (400 mg/kg on days 1 through 5; group 2; n = 13), or a combination of both agents given on the same schedule (group 3; n = 13). The groups were well matched clinically and hematologically. No mortality occurred after initiating therapy, but one patient experienced a cerebrovascular accident. Response, defined as a platelet count greater than 50 x 10(9)/L, was achieved in 82%, 54%, and 92% of patients in groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively, but was only significant between groups 2 and 3 (P = 0.0365). The median times to peak platelet counts were 8.5 days (range 7 to 21 days), 7 (range 5 to 10 days), and 7 (range 3 to 23 days), respectively. Although there was a trend in favor of the steroid-administered groups, relapse was not significantly different, which occurred at a median of 184, 32, and 76 days, respectively, nor was the average time to splenectomy different at 339, 59, and 98 days, respectively. At a minimum of 2 years of follow-up, 5 of 17 in group 1, 2 of 13 in group 2, and 1 of 13 in group 3 had achieved platelet counts of greater than 100 x 10(9)/L and, therefore, did not require splenectomy. In contrast, where this indication was present for failure to respond, 8 of 12 (67%) in group 1, 4 of 8 (50%) in group 2, and 9 of 12 (75%) in group 3 remain in complete remission. Significantly more patients in group 2 than group 3 experienced a relapse (P = 0.0365). It is concluded that in previously untreated adults with symptomatic immune thrombocytopenia, gammaglobulin offers no advantage over conventional corticosteroid administration as the primary form of therapy. Additionally, more intense immunosuppression, resulting from the use of both agents combined, is no better than single agent corticosteroid agents and appears to be an unnecessary and unwarranted expense.

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