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Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2009 Mar-Apr;27(2):321-4.

Genetic polymorphisms of thiopurine S-methyltransferase in a cohort of patients with systemic autoimmune diseases.

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  • 1Rheumatology Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.



Azathioprine (AZA) is a purine antimetabolite, prodrug widely used as a disease modifying drug in several rheumatic conditions. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the prevalence of TPMT genetic polymorphisms in a cohort of Italian Caucasian patients affected by rheumatic diseases and treated with AZA, and to establish correlations with the tolerability of AZA treatment.


Seventy-eight Caucasian patients, 16 males and 62 females, median age 41 years (min-max: 24-76) were enrolled. At the time of evaluation, the median duration of treatment with AZA was 8 months (min-max: 2-150 months); the median dose of AZA per kg of body weight was 1.42 mg (min-max: 0.5-2). Among the 78 patients evaluated, 76 presented a wild type genotype (TPMT *1), while polymorphic alleles were identified in 2 patients (2.6%). Twenty-five patients (32%) experienced different types of adverse events (AE) under AZA treatment. Eighteen patients (23.1%) discontinued AZA because of AE. No correlation was observed between polymorphic TPMT alleles and the development of AE.


Our analysis supports the view that TPMT genotyping alone is not sufficient to adequately personalize the AZA dosage in rheumatic patients. Further studies based on phenotypic analysis of TPMT enzyme and assay of AZA metabolite appear to be required.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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