Background. The side effects associated with corticosteroids have led to efforts to minimize their use in renal transplant patients. In this study we compared two corticosteroid-free tacrolimus-based regimens with a standard triple therapy. Methods. This was a 6-month, phase III, open-label, parallel-group, multicenter study. The total analysis set comprised 451 patients, randomized (1:1:1) to receive tacrolimus (Tac) monotherapy following basiliximab (Bas) administration (n = 153), Tac/mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) (n=151), or, Tac/MMF/corticosteroids triple therapy as a control (n=147). Results. The study was completed by 91.2% (triple therapy), 94.7% (Tac/MMF), and 82.4% (Bas/Tac) of patients. Patient baseline characteristics were similar in all groups. The incidences of biopsy-proven acute rejection were 8.2% (triple therapy), 30.5% (Tac/MMF), and 26.1% (Bas/Tac), p<0.001 (multiple test for comparison with triple therapy); Bas/Tac vs. Tac/MMF, p=ns. The incidences of corticosteroid-resistant acute rejection were 2.0%, 4.0%, and 5.2%, p=ns. Graft survival (95.9%, 96.7%, and 94.7%, p=ns) and patient survival (100%, 99.3%, and 99.3%, p=ns) were similar in all groups. Median serum creatinine at month 6 was 123.0 μmol/L (triple therapy), 134.7 μmol/L (Tac/MMF) and 135.8 μmol/L (Bas/Tac). The overall safety profiles were similar; differences (p<0.05) were reported for anaemia (24.5% vs. 12.6% vs. 14.5%), diarrhoea (12.9% vs. 17.9% vs. 5.9%), and leukopenia (7.5% vs. 18.5% vs. 5.9%) for the triple therapy, Tac/MMF, and Bas/Tac group, respectively. The incidences of new-onset diabetes mellitus were 4.6%, 7.1%, and 1.4%, respectively. Conclusion. Corticosteroid-free immunosuppression was feasible with the Bas/Tac and the Tac/MMF regimens. Both corticosteroid-free regimens were equally effective in preventing acute rejection, with the Bas/Tac therapy offering some safety benefits.
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