Azathioprine dosing and metabolite measurement in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease: does one size fit all?

Authors Rebecca Walker, Jochen Kammermeier, Rakesh Vora, Mohamed Mutalib.


Background Azathioprine is widely used for the maintenance of remission in children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Measuring thiopurine metabolites 6-thioguanine (6-TGN) and 6-methyl-mercaptopurine (6-MMP) can aid in optimizing treatment and preventing toxicity. We report a proactive approach combining early metabolite measurements with IBD activity index to achieve optimal azathioprine dosing.

Methods The reporting of azathioprine dosing, IBD activity indexes and thiopurine metabolites was evaluated retrospectively in 40 children with IBD. Additional treatments and the effect of azathioprine on blood counts were also examined.

Results Forty children (40% female) with IBD (26 Crohn’s disease, 12 ulcerative colitis, and 2 unclassified IBD), mean age 12.2±3.4 years, were included in the study. The mean azathioprine dose was 1.3±0.4 mg/kg; mean 6-TGN level was 280±151 pmol/8 × 108 red blood cells (RBC) and mean 6-MMP level 1022±1007 pmol/8 × 108 RBC. Disease activity index (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, pediatric specific) at the time of metabolite measurement was 6.5±8. Twenty-eight children did not require azathioprine dose adjustment, while it was increased in 12. Data from children with azathioprine monotherapy were analyzed separately and the results were similar.

Conclusion Timely measurement of thiopurine metabolites and clinical assessment can provide a powerful tool to optimize azathioprine dosing and reduce serious adverse effects in children with IBD.

Keywords Pediatric inflammatory bowel disease, 6-thioguanine, 6-methyl-mercaptopurine, thiopurine toxicity, activity index

Ann Gastroenterol 2019; 32 (4): 387-391

Original Articles