Lung India

: 2015  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 4--5

Is pirfenidone ready for use in non-idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis interstitial lung diseases?

Sahajal Dhooria, Ritesh Agarwal, Dheeraj Gupta 
 Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab, India

Correspondence Address:
Dheeraj Gupta
Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab

How to cite this article:
Dhooria S, Agarwal R, Gupta D. Is pirfenidone ready for use in non-idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis interstitial lung diseases?.Lung India 2015;32:4-5

How to cite this URL:
Dhooria S, Agarwal R, Gupta D. Is pirfenidone ready for use in non-idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis interstitial lung diseases?. Lung India [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jun 16 ];32:4-5
Available from:

Full Text

Pirfenidone is an orally active drug with anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic actions. [1] In this issue of the journal, Udwadia et al. report the successful treatment of connective tissue disease (CTD)-associated interstitial lung disease (ILD), with pirfenidone, in a patient with systemic sclerosis (SSc). [2] The index patient was a 44-year-old lady with SSc-ILD, diagnosed on high-resolution computed tomography of the chest, showing a pattern of fibrotic nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP). She had worsening dyspnea and declining lung function despite immunosuppression with corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide, and azathioprine. Treatment with 600 mg/day of pirfenidone (started as compassionate use) for 20 months, led to supposed improvement in the symptoms, lung function, diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide, and arterial oxygen saturation.

Pirfenidone is recommended for use in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), with a moderate restrictive defect on spirometry (forced vital capacity between 50 and 80% predicted). [3] Although, first tried in IPF on a compassionate basis in an open-label study, [4] it was the phase II and phase III Japanese trials, the two CAPACITY trials and the more recent ASCEND trial that brought in scientifically sound evidence to support the fact that this drug slows down the decline of lung function in IPF. [5],[6],[7],[8] The drug is now being studied in animal models for non-IPF ILDs and non-pulmonary fibrotic conditions. [9],[10],[11],[12] It has also been evaluated in humans with non-pulmonary fibrosing disorders. [13],[14] Its efficacy in SSc-ILD has been previously reported, although the study has included only five patients. [15] The question is whether pirfenidone is actually effective in non-IPF ILDs?

The pathogenesis of IPF involves alveolar epithelial cell damage, which leads to production of several growth factors by these activated epithelial cells, which include transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, platelet derived growth factor (PDGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. [1] This initiates the migration and proliferation of fibroblasts. As appropriate repair of the damaged epithelium fails to occur, a dysregulated wound healing process results, further establishing a persistent fibroproliferative state. Pirfenidone acts by regulating TGF-β, thus slowing down the fibrotic process. As TGF-β is also a key cytokine in SSc-ILD, it seems biologically plausible that the drug may be effective in this disease, [16] or for that matter, it is possible that the drug may act in any fibrotic ILD in which TGF-β plays a major role. However, currently all these are hypothetical statements and evidence to support this theory needs to be generated.

In the case reported by Udwadia et al., the ILD was not advanced on imaging (in contrast to the results of spirometry) and the dose of pirfenidone used was only 600 mg/day. Hence, the possibility of spontaneous stabilization of the disease cannot be excluded. Another important possibility is that the progression of ILD was a result of drug-induced toxicity (both cyclophosphamide and azathioprine are known to cause ILD) and it remitted when these medications were withdrawn. [17],[18] Although apparent efficacy of a lower dose of the drug in the index patient may be attributed to the lower body weight of Indian patients or to the racial, ethnic, and geographical differences in the pharmacokinetics of the drug, this requires further investigation. The dose of pirfenidone used in the Japanese phase III trial was 1800 mg per day, while in the CAPACITY 004 trial it was 1197 mg/day and 2403 mg/day. [6],[7] It was observed that even the 1197 mg/day dose was less effective than the 2403 mg/day dose. A weight-based dosing regimen (using 40 mg/kg/day) of pirfenidone has also been suggested. [19]

The beneficial effect noted in the case report does not mean that pulmonologists should start using pirfenidone in non-IPF ILDs. In our opinion, at present, pirfenidone must not be used in cellular NSIP, cryptogenic organizing pneumonia, and other ILDs, where there is preponderant cellular inflammation; the mainstay of treatment in such situations should be steroids or immunosuppressive agents. There is, however, an urgent need to evaluate the efficacy of pirfenidone in the fibrotic NSIP pattern and the fibrotic stage of other ILDs. The most common cause of death in patients with systemic sclerosis is ILD. [20] If pirfenidone proves to be effective, it will be a boon for patients with this sclerosing disorder, which perplexes the rheumatologists and the pulmonologists alike. The report brings out the important need for a systematic assessment of the efficacy of pirfenidone in SSc-ILD, as well as in other non-IPF ILDs by means of properly conducted randomized controlled trials. This would ensure that we do not deny our patients an effective option in fibrotic ILDs that are resistant to immunosuppression.


1Schaefer CJ, Ruhrmund DW, Pan L, Seiwert SD, Kossen K. Antifibrotic activities of pirfenidone in animal models. Eur Respir Rev 2011;20:85-97.
2Udwadia ZF, Mullerpattan JB, Balakrishnan C, Richeldi L. Improved pulmonary function following pirfenidone treatment in a patient with progressive interstitial lung disease associated with systemic sclerosis. Lung India 2015;32:50-2.
3Landells LJ, Naidoo B, Robertson J, Clark P. NICE guidance on pirfenidone for treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Lancet Respir Med 2013;1:191-2.
4Raghu G, Johnson WC, Lockhart D, Mageto Y. Treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis with a new antifibrotic agent, pirfenidone: Results of a prospective, open-label Phase II study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1999;159:1061-9.
5Azuma A, Nukiwa T, Tsuboi E, Suga M, Abe S, Nakata K, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of pirfenidone in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2005;171:1040-7.
6Taniguchi H, Ebina M, Kondoh Y, Ogura T, Azuma A, Suga M, et al. Pirfenidone in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Eur Respir J 2010;35:821-9.
7Noble PW, Albera C, Bradford WZ, Costabel U, Glassberg MK, Kardatzke D, et al.;CAPACITYStudy Group. Pirfenidone in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (CAPACITY): Two randomised trials. Lancet 2011;377:1760-9.
8King TE Jr, Bradford WZ, Castro-Bernardini S, Fagan EA, Glaspole I, Glassberg MK, et al.;ASCEND Study Group. A phase 3 trial of pirfenidone in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. N Engl J Med 2014;370:2083-92.
9Fink MK, Giuliano EA, Tandon A, Mohan RR. Therapeutic potential of Pirfenidone for treating equine corneal scarring. Vet Ophthalmol 2014. [Epub ahead of print].
10Inomata M, Kamio K, Azuma A, Matsuda K, Kokuho N, Miura Y, et al. Pirfenidone inhibits fibrocyte accumulation in the lungs in bleomycin-induced murine pulmonary fibrosis. Respir Res 2014;15:16.
11Orozco-Perez J, Aguirre-Jauregui O, Salazar-Montes AM, Sobrevilla-Navarro AA, Lucano-Landeros MS, Armendáriz-Borunda J. Pirfenidone prevents rat esophageal stricture formation. J Surg Res 2014. pii: S0022-4804 (14) 01043-9.
12Takakura K, Mizukami K, Mitori H, Noto T, Tomura Y. Antiproteinuric effect of pirfenidone in a rat model of anti-glomerular basement membrane glomerulonephritis. Eur J Pharmacol 2014;737:106-16.
13Shesha Prasad R, Pai A. Pirfenidone-A ray of hope in oral sub mucous fibrosis. Oral Oncol 2015;51:e1.
14Widemann BC, Babovic-Vuksanovic D, Dombi E, Wolters PL, Goldman S, Martin S, et al. Phase II trial of pirfenidone in children and young adults with neurofibromatosis type 1 and progressive plexiform neurofibromas. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2014;61:1598-602.
15Miura Y, Saito T, Fujita K, Tanaka T, Tsunoda Y, Azuma A, et al. Clinical experience with pirfenidone in five patients with scleroderma-related interstitial lung disease. Sarcoidosis Vasc Diffuse Lung Dis 2014;31:235-8.
16Fan MH, Feghali-Bostwick CA, Silver RM. Update on scleroderma-associated interstitial lung disease. Curr Opin Rheumatol 2014;26:630-6.
17Malik SW, Myers JL, DeRemee RA, Specks U. Lung toxicity associated with cyclophosphamide use. Two distinct patterns. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996;154:1851-6.
18Ishida T, Kotani T, Takeuchi T, Makino S. Pulmonary toxicity after initiation of azathioprine for treatment of interstitial pneumonia in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol 2012;39:1104-5.
19Nagai S, Hamada K, Shigematsu M, Taniyama M, Yamauchi S, Izumi T. Open-label compassionate use one year-treatment with pirfenidone to patients with chronic pulmonary fibrosis. Intern Med 2002;41:1118-23.
20Steen VD, Medsger TA. Changes in causes of death in systemic sclerosis, 1972 - 2002. AnnRheum Dis 2007;66:940-4.