Use of a Cholestyramine Washout in a Patient With Septic Shock on Leflunomide Therapy: A Case Report and Review of the Literature

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Patients presenting with infections while receiving disease-modifying antirheumatic agents (DMARD) may be predisposed to a higher degree illness due to immunosuppression. This can be particularly problematic in patients who are receiving DMARDs with prolonged pharmacokinetic profiles. Leflunomide is a DMARD that has a prolonged half-life due to enterohepatic recirculation. We report a case of a patient with severe septic shock secondary to a prosthetic joint infection in which therapeutic levels of leflunomide were discovered, despite the patient ceasing therapy several weeks prior to admission. An orogastric cholestyramine washout was given to the patient to expedite the removal of the drug. Serum levels rapidly declined over the next several days, corresponding with resolution of her sepsis. A review of the literature relevant to the incidence of DMARD-related infections was conducted as well as discussion regarding the role of leflunomide drug monitoring and cholestyramine-facilitated removal of the drug in episodes of acute infectious syndromes.

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