The major improvement in survival that patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have experienced from 1950 to the mid-1990s has plateaued ever since, reported Maria Tektonidou, MD, and her colleagues. The study was published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Dr. Tektonidou of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and her coauthors at the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases performed a meta-analysis on studies examining survival in adult and pediatric SLE patients from the 1950s to the mid-1990s. Ultimately, they analyzed 125 adult studies, including 82 from high-income countries and 43 from low- to middle-income countries (LMIC), and 51 pediatric studies, of which 33 were from high-income countries and 18 from LMIC.

In adult studies, researchers found that both high-income and LMIC experienced gradual increases in survival from the 1950s to mid-1990s. After this period of time, the survival estimates stabilized. “In 2008–2016, the 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year survival estimates in high-income countries were 0.95 (95% credible interval, 0.94 to 0.96), 0.89 (0.88 to 0.90) and 0.82 (0.81 to 0.83), respectively” ( Ann Rheum Dis. 2017 Aug 9. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2017-211663 ).

Although there were no data for LMIC prior to 1970, researchers identified survival trends similar to those in high-income countries in more recent years. Over the same time period between 2008 and 2016, “the 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year survival estimates in LMIC were 0.92 (0.91 to 0.93), 0.85 (0.84 to 0.87) and 0.79 (0.78 to 0.81), respectively,” according to the report.

Unlike the steady improvement seen over a 40-year period with adult studies, pediatric SLE patients in high-income countries experienced dramatic increases in survival rates from the 1960s to the 1970s, followed by slower increases in survival rates. The researchers reported that between 2008 and 2016,“the 5-year and 10-year survival estimates from high-income countries were 0.99 (0.98 to 1.00) and 0.97 (0.96 to 0.98), respectively.”

LMIC had significantly worse survival in pediatric SLE patients than did their wealthy counterparts. “Survival persistently lagged [behind] that of high-income countries” between 1980 and 2000. Dr. Tektonidou and her associates found that “5-year and 10-year survival estimates from LMIC were 0.85 (0.83 to 0.88) and 0.79 (0.76 to 0.82), respectively.” Due to the small number of studies reporting 15-year survival rates, this time point was not included in the pediatric analysis.

The researchers also analyzed the cause of death for adult and pediatric SLE patients in both high-income countries and LMIC. High-income countries showed lower rates of SLE-associated deaths over time in adults, although infection-related deaths increased in adults in both high-income countries and LMIC. There were not enough studies and data to assess cause of death in pediatric studies in high-income countries, but pediatric patients in LMIC had an upward trend in SLE-associated deaths.

The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases supported the study. The researchers reported having no relevant financial disclosures.


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