Lupus nephritis flare in young patients: relapse or nonadherence to treatment?
Francisco Rivera*, Sara Anaya*
Sección de Nefrología, Hospital General Universitario de Ciudad Real, Ciudad Real, Spain
*These authors contributed equally to this work
Purpose: Adherence is a challenging issue in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. Nonadherence has been widely addressed in patients with lupus and must be detected quickly to prevent severe complications. The cases we present illustrate the importance of adherence in young adults.
Case 1: A 23-year-old Spanish woman diagnosed with severe lupus nephritis 8 years previously achieved renal remission after immunosuppressive treatment with corticosteroids and cyclophosphamide. Three years later, she developed a renal flare. Her treatment was intensified, and rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil were added. One year later, she was readmitted for a new renal flare. A blood test revealed no detectable levels of mycophenolic acid, and the patient admitted she had not taken her treatment correctly. Treatment was resumed. Four years later, the patient remains in remission.
Case 2: A 19-year-old Spanish woman was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome due to lupus nephritis. She achieved complete remission after treatment with corticosteroids and cyclophosphamide followed by mycophenolate mofetil. Two years later, she developed a severe renal relapse that was treated with corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab. The response to treatment was good. Mycophenolic acid was undetectable in blood. The patient admitted that she had often missed doses before this relapse. The renal response has been maintained since she resumed her previous medications 2 years ago.
Conclusion: We conclude that the frequent and severe relapses of lupus nephritis observed in young patients may actually be due to nonadherence rather than to refractory disease. Our cases are typical examples of nonadherence that were discovered after a detailed interview with the patients and their families. We emphasize the need for clinical suspicion of nonadherence when caring for young adults with lupus.
Keywords: lupus nephritis, renal flare, nonadherence
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