Drug levels for inflammatory bowel disease

In many conditions, drug levels are helpful to make sure the patient receives an adequate dose for the indication.  When we treat infections or seizures, drug levels predict the effectiveness of the medication and allow dosing adjustments to improve responses as well as to lower toxicity. Drug levels are helpful in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as well.  Drug levels may help with thiopurine dosing and with infliximab (IFX) dosing.

Infliximab (IFX) levels can guide therapy (Scand J Gastroeneterol 2011; 46: 310-18). This study examined 106 patients (85 with CD and 21 with UC) over a ten-year period. In this cohort, patients received concurrent hydrocortisone, acetaminophen, and cetirizine to prevent acute reactions and to try to limit anti-infliximab antibodies (ATI), also called anti-human antichimeric antibodies (HACA).  Infusion intervals ranged from 4-12 weeks.

69% of Crohn’s patients maintained response to IFX and 48% of UC patients.  Infliximab trough levels were significantly increased among patients who maintained their response.  A cutoff value of 0.5 μg/mL was defined as clinically relevant for IFX trough concentrations for Crohn’s patients and for UC the cutoff was 0.8 μg/mL .  Trough levels below this cutoff were 86% sensitive and 85% specific for identifying loss of response.  The overall accuracy for the test was 87% in identifying loss of response.

Also, ATIs were significantly higher in CD patients who had lost response to infliximab.  Patients who had been “re-treated,” were significantly more likely to have developed ATIs.  “Re-treated” was defined as having interruption of IFX treatment more than 6 months.

These specific cutoff values apply to the radioimmunoassay technique for measuring IFX and ATI.  These values may not extrapolate to ELISA assays.  At the same time, the findings suggest a practical approach in patients with symptoms while receiving IFX:

  • Check IFX level (at trough or at 4 weeks)
  • If low level and no ATI, likely to respond to dose escalation
  • If low level but positive for ATI, not likely to respond to dose escalation
  • Do not assume symptoms are due to drug failure; reassess with imaging &/or scope. Consider alternate etiologies (eg infections, stricture, celiac, IBS).
  • Cotherapy with an immunomodulator reduces ATIs and boosts levels of IFX.
More usage of IFX and ATI levels is likely; however, cost issues preclude frequent measurements.

Additional references:

  • Only one chance to make first impression.  Previous blog entry on use of infliximab.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hepatology 2011; 9: 395. Do not assume symptoms are due to drug failure -reassess with imaging &/or scope. Consider alternate etiologies (eg infections, stricture, celiac, IBS). Check IFX level –if >12 @ 4weeks or >1.4 mcg/mL at trough –>predicts good response.  If +HACA, ~90% response with alternative TNF.  In those with low level, 86% responded to dose escalation.
  • -DDW 2011, Abstract #772. If loss of response to IFX, **confirm active dz (labs, scope) & not due to CDT. **check HACA –if +, only 10-20% chance of responding to dose escalation; better chance of responding to similar agent **check IFX week 4 level, if low (& neg HACA) then 90% respond to dose escalation
  • -NEJM 2010; 362:1383-1395. SONIC study.  Patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease who were treated with infliximab plus azathioprine or infliximab monotherapy were more likely to have a corticosteroid-free clinical remission than those receiving azathioprine monotherapy.
  • -Gut 2010; 59: 49-54. Trough IFX levels in UC. n=115. Antibody status can only be measured at trough levels. Undetectable trough level (<1.4 mcg/mL) associated with lower remission (15% vs 69%) and lower endoscopic response (28% vs 76%) & higher colectomy rate (55% vs. 7%).
  • -Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 344 (review of above Gut article). Similar to Crohn’s disease: 82% remission with detectable trough vs 6% w/o detectable level.
  • Lancet 354 (9194): 1932–9. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(99)05246-0PMID 10622295.”Infliximab (chimeric anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha monoclonal antibody) versus placebo in rheumatoid arthritis patients receiving concomitant methotrexate: a randomised phase III trial. ATTRACT Study Group”.
  • -Am J Gastroenterol 2010; 105: 1133-39. If lack/loss of response, may need dose escalation with humira or Cimzia (q2weeks):
  • -IBD 2011; 17: 141-51. Loss of response to biologics.
  • -Gastro & Hep 2008; 4: 12. “primary nonresponse can be determined after 2 doses” in table reiterating AGA consensus guidelines. 85% of responders show benefit by 2weeks & all responders benefit c/in 6 weeks (Am J Gastro 2001; 96: S303). Worsening Sx despite infliximab indicates need to look for stricture, infxn, etc.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2006; 4: 1248. Clinical remission associated with measurable infliximab troughs; thus, if no measurable trough, increase dose or shorten interval. If level detected & no response, unlikely to respnd to TNF class. Also, concurrent immunomodulators were not helpful.
  • -Am J Gastro 2010; 105: 2617 (Oussalah et al). 2-3yrs 41% IFX failure in UC. withdrawal of AZA increase loss of response –7x more likely
  • -Am J Gastro ; 105: 1133-40. n=155. 23% ATI -92% respond to med change, 17% respond to dose change. Level <12 @ 4weeks, 86% respond to dose change
  • -Gut 2010; 59: 1363. n=121. Co-treatment helped reduce complications & flares relative to monotherapy (& azathioprine appeared to be more effective than methotrexate).