Cyclosporin is used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs and although hailed as a major advance over existing drugs, it is not a panacea: side-effects are common and sometimes dangerous. The most serious hazard is kidney damage,(1) an effect not predicted by the initial animal tests.(2) Ironically, kidney toxicity has been reported in almost 80% of kidney transplant patients receiving the drug.(2) Some heart transplant patients treated with cyclosporin required dialysis because their kidneys had failed.(3)
Subsequent animal experiments showed that only extremely high doses of cyclosporin could induce kidney toxicity in rats (1) although dogs and rhesus monkeys were still unaffected.(2) Researchers believe that "...failure to produce renal dysfunction (kidney damage) experimentally that is similar to that seen clinically may result from species differences in metabolism."(2)
Although cyclosporin can prevent rejection of transplanted organs in both animals and people, an early review of the drug found sufficient variation in experimental results to suggest that "The immunosuppressive effects of cyclosporin have ...differed considerably between species, limiting any direct inference that may be made regarding use in human organ transplantation..."(1)
1 ) D.J.Cohen et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, 1984, vol. 101, 667-682.
2) W.M.Bennett & I.P.Pulliam, Annals of Internal Medicine, 1983, vol.99, 851-854.
3) Lancet, 1986, February 22, 419-420.
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