Document Detail

Azathioprine and allopurinol: the price of an avoidable drug interaction.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  8876853     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
OBJECTIVE: To report the price of a drug interaction between azathioprine and allopurinol that resulted in pancytopenia in a patient who had undergone a heart transplant. CASE SUMMARY: A 63-year-old white man who received an orthotopic heart transplant in 1987 was hospitalized in June 1991 with a diagnosis of pancytopenia. His immunosuppressive medications on admission included cyclosporine 125 mg bid, azathioprine (AZA) 200 mg/d, and prednisone 2.5 mg/5 mg every other day. Six weeks prior to admission, the patient's local physician prescribed allopurinol for left wrist pain suspected to be gout. It was determined that the pancytopenia was caused by the drug interaction between AZA and allopurinol, both of which were withheld on admission. During hospitalization, the patient's white blood cell count dropped to 1.1 x 10(3)/mm3 with an absolute neutrophil count of less than 0.5 x 10(3)/mm3, a platelet count of less than 20 x 10(3)/mm3, and a hemoglobin of 3.7 g/dL. Four units of packed red blood cells were transfused and regramostim (GM-CSF) therapy was begun on hospital day 3 to speed the marrow recovery process. The patient was discharged on hospital day 8 and AZA, which had been withheld since admission, was restarted. The dosage was titrated to 200 mg/d over the following 2 weeks. The price of this patient's hospital stay was $13,042. DISCUSSION: Not included in this price was the effect this drug interaction had on the patient's quality of life. Even after discharge from the hospital, it was estimated that it would take up to 3 months for the patient to fully recover his previous level of strength and functional capability. This interaction between AZA and allopurinol could easily have been avoided. Both the physician and the pharmacist missed this well-documented and potentially life-threatening drug interaction. Also, the patient failed to notify the transplant team when allopurinol was prescribed by his local physician. The importance of patient responsibility for medication therapy must be stressed to help avoid unnecessary drug interactions. CONCLUSIONS: Undetected drug interactions can be life-threatening to patients as well as costly to the healthcare system. Drug interactions also can have a profound negative effect on the patients' quality of life, the price of which cannot be measured in dollars alone. It is vital that the physician, pharmacist, and patient work together to optimize therapeutic outcomes and avoid unnecessary drug interactions.
D T Kennedy; M S Hayney; K D Lake
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Case Reports; Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  The Annals of pharmacotherapy     Volume:  30     ISSN:  1060-0280     ISO Abbreviation:  Ann Pharmacother     Publication Date:  1996 Sep 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1997-01-15     Completed Date:  1997-01-15     Revised Date:  2006-11-15    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  9203131     Medline TA:  Ann Pharmacother     Country:  UNITED STATES    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  951-4     Citation Subset:  IM    
Drug Evaluation Unit, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Allopurinol / adverse effects*
Azathioprine / adverse effects*
Cost of Illness*
Drug Interactions
Gout Suppressants / adverse effects*
Heart Transplantation
Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
Middle Aged
Pancytopenia / chemically induced*,  economics
Quality of Life
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Gout Suppressants; 0/Immunosuppressive Agents; 315-30-0/Allopurinol; 446-86-6/Azathioprine

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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