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J Rheumatol. 1997 Dec;24(12):2444-50.

Azathioprine in patients with juvenile chronic arthritis: a longterm followup study.

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  • 1Rheumatism Foundation Hospital, Heinola, Finland.



To evaluate drug survival, efficacy, side effects, and longterm toxicity of azathioprine treatment in patients with juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA).


In an uncontrolled, prospective study we evaluated 129 consecutive patients with JCA refractory to therapy in whom azathioprine treatment was begun during 1980-1989. In the first 29 patients, a 2 year trial was planned, while for the remaining 100 patients the protocol was to continue until remission or dropout. The median treatment period was 13 months (range 3 days-8.5 yrs). Patients were assessed every 2 months for 2 years for efficacy, side effects, growth and need for glucocorticoids, and outcome evaluated in late 1996.


Remission without drugs was attained in 19 patients (15%); in addition, temporary remission in patients continuing treatment was attained in 18 cases (14%). Treatment was discontinued due to side effects in 18 cases (14%); in two-thirds of these cases side effects occurred during the first 2 months. Of the total number of patients, 49 (38%) completed 2 years of treatment, with significant improvement in both clinical and laboratory indices of disease activity. Treatment had no noticeable effect on iridocyclitis. One patient died of cytomegalovirus infection during azathioprine treatment.


Azathioprine is a useful drug in severe JCA, with a sustained effect and acceptable side effects. Even in cases of incomplete remission, its glucocorticoid sparing effect was noteworthy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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