The results of a clinical study into an experimental drug that aims to treat people with diabetes who are suffering kidney problems show that it can help them, experts say.
The study looks at using the anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory medication pirfenidone to treat patients with diabetic nephropathy, a common complication in which high blood glucose levels damage cells in the kidneys.
Diabetic nephropathy is the top cause of end-stage kidney problems in the US.
The clinical study – published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology – was the joint work of scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Mayo Clinic.
Dr Kumar Sharma, a professor of medicine in the UCSD division of nephrology and director of the Centre for Renal Translational Medicine, led the study. He said: “The dramatic finding of this exploratory study is that an appropriate dose of pirfenidone not only halted decline but actually improved kidney function in these patients.”
There were three groups of patients involved in the randomised, double-blind trial – one was given a large dose of pirfenidone (2,400 mg), one a small dose (1,200 mg) and a control group had no drug.
The 77 patients with diabetic nephropathy were treated at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the NIH.
Experts at the UCSD monitored how quickly their kidneys were deteriorating by measuring the estimated glomerular filtration rate – the volume of blood filtered in a given time.
The low dose group had a significant improvement over the course of the trial. The high-dose group did not seem to benefit, leading the experts to suggest patients with medium to serious diabetic kidney problems may not be able to tolerate that strength of dose.
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