Data on Allopurinol

Given the limited number of therapeutic options for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it is important to optimize each individual treatment.  Allopurinol can increase the effectiveness of thiopurines and if used properly can be safe (Inflamm Bowel Dis 2013; 19: 363-69).

The referenced study took place between 2004-2011 and examined 77 patients who failed monotherapy with a thiopurine due to “skewed” metabolism.  The average age of study participant was 38 years (28-45).  23% had previous surgery. Cotreatment with an anti-TNF occurred in 7 patients and with an 5-ASA i 17 patients.


  • Median 6-thioguanine (6-TGN) levels increased from 145 to 271 pmol/8 x10-to-the-8th. 6-methyl mercaptopurine (6-MMP) concentrations decreased from 10,110 to 265 pmol/8 x10-to-the-8th.
  • Leukopenia occurred in 16%, necessitating dose reductions.
  • Liver tests normalized in 81% with the addition of allopurinol
  • The median azathioprine dose while on combination therapy was 0.64 mg/kg/day and the median 6-mercaptopurine dose was 0.39 mg/kg/day.  While on mono therapy, median values were 2.05 mg/kg/day and 1.23 mg/kg/day respectively.
  • 21% had to discontinue combination therapy.
  • Combination therapy was continued at 6, 12, 24, and 60 months in 87%, 85%, 76%, and 65%.

Take-home Message:

Allopurinol can salvage failed thiopurine monotherapy, but only in a minority of these patients.  Allopurinol should be considered for patients unable to achieve therapeutic 6-TGN levels who have liver toxicity/elevated 6-MMP levels.  Careful attention to dose reduction of the thiopurine is essential to avoid life-threatening bone marrow suppression.

Related blog entry:

Thiopurine Metabolite Testing -NASPGHAN … – gutsandgrowth

Additional references:

  • -Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2010; 31: 640-47. use of allopurinol.
  • -Gastro & Hep 2008; 4: 505. use of allopurinol. Consider if pts unable to enter steroid-free remission AND on adequate AZA/6MP dose. ONLY in those who preferentially metabolize towards 6-MMP (~15% of population); thus subtherapeutic 6-TG levels and increased 6-MMP (>5700). Need adequate WBC >4.5 at start since this will decrease. Check labs every week x 4 at start, then qoweek x 4, then per routine.
  • -IBD 2008; 14: 1678. Experience with allopurinol in children -dose 100mg of allopurinol if >30kg and 50mg if < 30kg. AZA dose decreased to 25% of previous dose. n=13.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 170 (editorial) & 209.  Use of allopurinol (100mg/day) in 20 adults.  Dose of 6-MP reduced 25-50% concomitantly.  Improved disease control w/o hepatotoxicity.  Important to follow counts closely for first 2 months.

2 thoughts on “Data on Allopurinol

  1. Pingback: Not Much Data with Allopurinol | gutsandgrowth

  2. Pingback: More on Ustekinumab, plus Allopurinol Study | gutsandgrowth

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