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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jun;6(6):654-60; quiz 604. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.02.032. Epub 2008 May 7.

Thiopurine dose in intermediate and normal metabolizers of thiopurine methyltransferase may differ three-fold.

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Department of Medicine, Christchurch Hospital and Christchurch School of Medicine, Christchurch, New Zealand.



Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may have different thiopurine dose requirements in relation to thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) genotype and/or phenotype. The purpose of this study was to determine thiopurine dose requirements in intermediate versus normal TPMT metabolism status.


Consecutive patients starting azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine for IBD were followed up for 9 months. The thiopurine dose was individualized using 6-thioguanine nucleotide (6-TGN) concentrations (range, 235-450 pmol/8 x 10(8) red blood cells [RBCs]) and clinical status. Additional assessments undertaken every three months included measures of disease activity.


Eight (10%) of 77 participants were withdrawn because of protocol violation. Fifty-two (75%) of the remaining 69 subjects ( approximately 90% and 10% with the TPMT*1/*1 and *1/*3 genotypes, respectively) completed follow-up on azathioprine (n = 46) or 6-mercaptopurine (n = 6). The mean initial dose (as azathioprine equivalents) was similar ( approximately 1 mg/kg/d) for the 2 TPMT genotypes, but after 9 months the dose was 50% lower in the TPMT*1/*3 group (0.9 vs 1.8 mg/kg/d, P < .0001). Despite dose adjustment, median 6-TGN concentrations still were 2-fold higher in the TPMT*1/*3 group at the end of the follow-up period (505 vs 273 pmol/8 x 10(8) RBCs, P = .02). This difference was 3-fold when the concentration was adjusted for dose (578 vs 183 pmol/8 x 10(8) per mg/kg/d, P = .0007). Results were similar if TPMT phenotype was used instead of genotype. Clinical outcomes did not differ between groups.


Initial target doses to attain therapeutic 6-TGN concentrations (>235 pmol/8 x 10(8) RBCs) in patients with IBD might be 1 and 3 mg/kg/d in intermediate and normal metabolizers, respectively.

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