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Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Aug;64(8):753-67. doi: 10.1007/s00228-008-0478-6. Epub 2008 May 28.

Clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenetics of thiopurines.

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Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, One Health Plaza, East Hanover, NJ 07936, USA.


The thiopurine drugs-azathioprine (AZA), 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP), and thioguanine-are widely used to treat malignancies, rheumatic diseases, dermatologic conditions, inflammatory bowel disease, and solid organ transplant rejection. However, thiopurine drugs have a relatively narrow therapeutic index and are capable of causing life-threatening toxicity, most often myelosuppression. Thiopurine S-methyltransferase (TPMT; EC, an enzyme that catalyzes S-methylation of these drugs, exhibits a genetic polymorphism in 10% of Caucasians, with 1/300 individuals having complete deficiency. Patients with intermediate or deficient TPMT activity are at risk for excessive toxicity after receiving standard doses of thiopurine medications. This report reviews the recent advances in the knowledge of the mechanism of action as well as the molecular basis and interethnic variations of TPMT and inosine triphosphate pyrophosphatase (ITPase; EC, another enzyme implicated in thiopurine toxicity. In addition, an update on pharmacokinetics, metabolism, drug-drug interactions, safety, and tolerability of thiopurine drugs is provided.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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