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Clinical Research

Natural course of penicillamine nephropathy: a long term study of 33 patients

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 16 April 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1083
  1. C L Hall,
  2. S Jawad,
  3. P R Harrison,
  4. J C MacKenzie,
  5. P A Bacon,
  6. P T Klouda,
  7. A G MacIver


    To elucidate the natural course of the nephropathy associated with penicillamine and thereby facilitate its clinical management 33 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who developed proteinuria during treatment with oral penicillamine were studied in detail throughout their renal illness. Renal biopsies were performed, and creatinine clearance and proteinuria were measured serially for 74 months (range 16-148 months). Fourteen patients developed proteinuria within six months after the start of treatment and 27 within 12 months. When treatment was stopped the proteinuria reached a median peak of 4·2 g/24 h (range 0·3-15·0 g/24 h) at one month (range 0-7 months) before resolving spontaneously by six months (12 patients), 12 months (21), or 18 months (29). In all patients but one, who developed carcinoma of the renal pelvis, proteinuria resolved by 21 months and its median duration was eight months. The median first and last measurements of creatinine clearance showed no appreciable change (80 ml/min and 78 ml/min), and no patient died from or needed treatment for renal failure. The HLA-B8 or HLA-DR3 alloantigen, or both, were identified in 10 patients. Renal biopsy specimens showed membranous glomerulonephritis in 29 patients, minimal change nephropathy in two, and electron dense deposits in the mesangial regions in two.

    In all the patients whose nephropathy was due solely to treatment with penicillamine the proteinuria resolved completely when the drug was withdrawn; renal function did not deteriorate, and corticosteroids were unnecessary.

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