Study: Pirfenidone could improve kidney function among diabetic nephropathy patients

NEW YORK — An investigational antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory drug could help treat a common complication of diabetes.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic found that pirfenidone potentially could treat diabetic nephropathy, a leading cause of end-stage kidney disease.

The researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind study of 77 patients with diabetic nephropathy at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the NIH. The study comprised three groups: one group that received a high dose of pirfenidone (2,400 mg), one group that received a low dose of pirfenidone (1,200 mg) and one control group.

After analyzing the rate of decline in kidney function in the three groups — which was measured by the estimated glomerular filtration rate — the study authors found a significant improvement in the low-dose group over the course of the one-year study. Additionally, no seeming benefit was noted in those patients who received the high dose, suggesting that higher doses may not be tolerable in the diabetic population with moderate to advanced chronic kidney disease.

"The dramatic finding of this exploratory study is that an appropriate dose of pirfenidone not only halted decline but [also] actually improved kidney function in these patients," said Kumar Sharma, professor of medicine in the UCSD division of nephrology and director of the Center for Renal Translational Medicine, who headed the study.

The study was published in the April 21 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

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