This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) or tacrolimus (TAC) compared with azathioprine (AZA) as maintenance therapy for active lupus nephritis (ALN). Patients with ALN who responded to 24 weeks of induction treatment were enrolled. Patients who received MMF or TAC as induction therapy continued MMF or TAC treatment during the maintenance period, whereas those who received intravenous cyclophosphamide were subjected to AZA treatment. The primary endpoint was the incidence of renal relapse. Secondary endpoints included extrarenal flares and composite endpoints (deaths, end-stage renal disease, or doubling of serum creatinine levels). A total of 123 ALN patients (47 in the MMF group, 37 in the TAC group, and 39 in the AZA group) were enrolled. The median follow-up time was 60 months. Ten MMF-treated patients, ten TAC-treated patients, and eight AZA-treated patients experienced renal relapses (P = 0.844). The cumulative renal relapse rates in the MMF group (P = 0.934) and TAC group (P = 0.673) were similar to the renal relapse rate in the AZA group. No significant difference in the incidence of severe adverse event was observed among the groups. Long-term maintenance therapies with MMF or TAC might have similarly low rates of renal relapse and similar safety profiles compared with AZA.
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