The adverse effect profile of oral azathioprine in pediatric atopic dermatitis, and recommendations for monitoring

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Abstract

Background:

Azathioprine is efficacious in the treatment of severe childhood atopic dermatitis; however, robust data on adverse effects in this population are lacking.

Objective:

We sought to assess adverse effects of azathioprine treatment in a pediatric atopic dermatitis cohort, and make recommendations for monitoring based on these data.

Methods:

Blood test results for all 82 children prescribed oral azathioprine for atopic dermatitis in our department between 2010 and 2012 were collated prospectively, and clinical notes were reviewed retrospectively.

Results:

Mean age at commencing azathioprine was 8.3 years (SEM 0.4). Mean maximum doses were 2.4 mg/kg (SEM 0.1) and 1.5 mg/kg (SEM 0.1) for normal and reduced serum thiopurine-S-methyltransferase levels, respectively. Adverse effects on blood indices occurred in 34 of 82 patients (41%), with pronounced effects in 18 of 82 (22%) after a median time of 0.4 years. Two patients stopped therapy as a result of abnormal blood indices. Clinical adverse effects occurred in 16 of 82 (20%), two resulting in cessation of therapy. Incidence of adverse effects was unaffected by age, sex, thiopurine-S-methyltransferase level, and drug dose on multivariate regression.

Limitations:

Comparison with other studies is limited by varying definitions of adverse effects.

Conclusion:

Oral azathioprine was associated with few pronounced adverse effects for the duration of use and dosage in this cohort. Recommendations for monitoring are made.

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