Fixed low dose versus concentration-controlled initial tacrolimus dosing with reduced target levels in the course after kidney transplantation: results from a prospective randomized controlled non-inferiority trial (Slow & Low study)

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BACKGROUND: Optimal initial tacrolimus dosing and early exposure of tacrolimus after renal transplantation is not well studied.

METHODS: In this open-label, 6 months, multicenter, randomized controlled, non-inferiority study, we randomly assigned 432 renal allograft recipients to receive basiliximab induction, mycophenolate and steroids and either standard prolonged-release tacrolimus (trough levels: 7-9 ng/ml; Standard Care arm), or an initial 7-day fixed 5 mg/day dose of prolonged-release tacrolimus followed by lower tacrolimus predose levels (trough levels: 5-7 ng/ml; Slow & Low arm). The primary end point was the combined incidence rate of biopsy-proven acute rejections (BPAR; including borderline), graft failure, or death at 6 months with a non-inferiority margin of 12.5%. (EudraCT-Nr: 2013-001770-19.

FINDINGS: The combined primary endpoint in the Slow & Low arm was non-inferior compared to the Standard Care arm (22.1% versus 20.7%; difference: 1.4%, 90% CI -5.5% to 8.3%). The overall rate of BPAR including borderlines was similar (Slow & Low 17.4% versus Standard Care 16.6%). Safety parameters such as delayed graft function, kidney function, donor specific HLA-antibodies, infections, or post-transplantation diabetes mellitus did not differ.

INTERPRETATION: This is the first study to show that an initial fixed dose of 5 mg per day followed by lower tacrolimus exposure is non-inferior compared to standard tacrolimus therapy and equally efficient and safe within 6 months after renal transplantation. These data suggest that therapeutic drug monitoring for prolonged release tacrolimus can be abandoned until start of the second week after transplantation.

FUNDING: Investigator-initiated trial, financial support by Astellas Pharma GmbH.


Original languageEnglish
Article number102381
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number67
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Dec 2023

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC10751828
Scopus 85180608293
ORCID /0000-0002-6530-5855/work/151983262


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