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Keywords:

  • pemphigus;
  • pentoxifylline;
  • sulfasalazine

Summary

Background  Pemphigus vulgaris (PV) represents a potentially life-threatening autoimmune blistering disease in which IgG autoantibodies are directed against cell–cell adhesion molecules. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α has been suggested to have a possible role in the mechanism underlying acantholysis.

Objectives  This comparative double-blinded study was carried out to estimate the use of both sulfasalazine (SSZ) and pentoxifylline (PTX) (low-cost anti-TNF drugs) as an adjuvant therapy for PV.

Methods  The study included 64 patients with PV: 42 patients received the full treatment regimen (with SSZ and PTX) and 22 patients followed the same regimen except they received placebo instead of PTX and SSZ. Five healthy subjects were included as controls. Serum samples were taken to measure TNF-α levels in the control group and before starting treatment in both the patient groups and this was repeated every 2 weeks for 8 weeks; a clinical assessment was made every week for all the patients.

Results  The serum level of TNF-α was statistically higher in both groups of patients than in the healthy individuals. There was a statistically significant decrease in the serum levels of TNF-α in patients in group 1 compared with those in group 2 at 6 and 8 weeks. There was also a significant clinical improvement in patients in group 1 compared with those in group 2.

Conclusion  The use of PTX and SSZ as adjuvant therapy in the treatment of PV induced a faster and more significant decrease in the serum level of TNF-α, and this decrease was associated with rapid clinical improvement.