Thalidomide and Lenalidomide for Refractory Systemic/Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus Treatment: A Narrative Review of Literature for Clinical Practice

BACKGROUND:

Thalidomide has shown exceptional results in systemic/cutaneous lupus erythematosus(SLE/CLE). Recently, lenalidomide has been also prescribed for SLE/CLE treatment. Literature regarding efficacy/adverse events for these drugs is scarce with a single systematic review and meta-analysis focused solely on thalidomide for refractory cutaneous lupus subtypes.

OBJECTIVE:

We, therefore, addressed in this narrative review the efficacy/adverse effects of thalidomide and lenalidomide for SLE and CLE. In addition, we provide a specialist approach for clinical practice based on the available evidence.

RESULTS:

Efficacy of thalidomide for refractory cutaneous lupus treatment was demonstrated by several studies, mostly retrospective with small sample size(≤20). The frequency of peripheral polyneuropathy is controversial varying from 15-80% with no consistent data regarding cumulative dose and length of use. Drug withdrawn results in clinical partial/complete reversibility for most cases (70%). For lenalidomide, seven studies (small sample sizes) reported its efficacy for SLE/CLE with complete/partial response in all patients with a mean time to response of 3 months. Flare rate varied from 25-75% occurring 0.5-10 months after drug withdrawn. There were no reports of polyneuropathy/worsening of previous thalidomide-induced neuropathy, but most of them did not perform nerve conduction studies. Teratogenicity risk exist for both drugs and strict precautions are required.

CONCLUSIONS:

Thalidomide is very efficacious as an induction therapy for patients with severe/refractory cutaneous lupus with high risk of scarring, but its longstanding use should be avoided due to neurotoxicity. Lenalidomide is a promising drug for skin lupus treatment, particularly regarding the apparent lower frequency of nerve side effects.

 2019 Oct 29. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000001160. [Epub ahead of print]