PURPOSE: To determine the additive renal effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and cyclosporine A (CYA) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to determine the effects of CYA on active RA. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Eleven patients with RA refractory to other agents were treated separately for 2-week periods with an NSAID (sulindac or naproxen), CYA (5 mg/kg/d), and NSAID plus CYA in combination (NSAID/CYA). The NSAID/CYA combination was continued for an additional 20 weeks. Clinical parameters of RA, electrolytes, renal function, and the renin-aldosterone system were evaluated at each interval to determine the potential interaction of these two agents. RESULTS: Combined therapy was effective in suppressing many measures of active RA in 9 of the 11 patients. Adverse drug reactions were common, but withdrawals were limited to hirsutism (one) and peripheral neuropathy (one). In about half of the patients, CYA or NSAID resulted in a decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and effective renal plasma flow (ERPF), with a mild reduction in the filtration fraction. With NSAID or CYA, early morning renin-aldosterone system values were mildly suppressed, and their response to ambulation/intravenous (IV) furosemide was not blunted. When combined, NSAID/CYA caused more marked reductions of GFR and ERPF at 2 weeks, and this persisted at 20 weeks. The morning renin-aldosterone system values during administration of NSAID/CYA were suppressed, with an added blunted response to ambulation/IV furosemide. CONCLUSION: As previously suspected, the impairment of renal function when CYA and NSAID are combined is greater than that obtained with either agent alone. This hemodynamic effect was reversible and appeared to be, at least in part, due to renal vasoconstriction.
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