Our observation that thalidomide administration to a dialysis patient with leprosy alleviated his pruritus led us to condut this short-term study to assess the efficacy of the drug in this regard. From 210 hemodialysis patients, 29 cases of refractory uremic pruritus were entered into the study. Patients were instructed to score their symptoms from 0 to 3, three times a day and assigned to receive thalidomide or placebo at bed time for 7 days. After a washout period of 7 days, drugs were crossed over. Response was defined as a reduction of at least 50% in the pruritus scoring. Eigtheen patients finished the study. In the first phase, 55% of patients responded showing a mean reduction in their pruritus scoring of 78% (p < 0.05 vs. placebo); no response to placebo was observed. A similar proportion of patients responded to thalidomide in the second phase with a mean reduction in their pruritus scoring of 81%. In conclusion, thalidomide can be a precious tool in the handling of uremic pruritus unresponsive to available therapy.

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