Background: Azathioprine is proven to be effective for the maintenance of remission in both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, induction of remission in Crohn's disease, and in reducing steroid use in steroid dependent or chronically active inflammatory bowel disease. This study was aimed to evaluate the frequency and course of adverse events associated with azathioprine treatment in Korean pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Methods: Total of 174 pediatric patients (age range, 1 to 19 years) with inflammatory bowel disease who received azathioprine in order to maintain remission at Samsung Medical Center (Seoul, Korea) from January 2002 through December 2012 were included in this study. Medical records of these subjects were retrospectively reviewed regarding the development of adverse events associated with azathioprine treatment.
Results: Ninety-eight patients (56.3%) of 174 patients experienced 136 episodes of adverse events, requiring dose reduction in 31 patients (17.8%), and discontinuation in 18 patients (10.3%). The mean dose of azathioprine that had been initially administered was 1.32±0.42 mg/kg/day. Among the adverse reactions, bone marrow suppression developed in 47 patients (27.0%), requiring dose reduction in 22 patients (12.6%) and discontinuation in 8 patients (4.6%). Other adverse events that occurred were gastrointestinal disturbance (15.5%), hair loss (12.1%), pancreatitis (7.5%), arthralgia (6.9%), hepatotoxicity (2.9%), skin rash/allergic reactions (2.9%), headache/dizziness (2.3%), sepsis (0.6%), and oral mucositis (0.6%).
Conclusions: Bone marrow suppression, especially leukopenia was most commonly associated with azathioprine treatment in Korean pediatric inflammatory bowel disease patients. Close observation for possible adverse events is required in this population with inflammatory bowel diseases who are under treatment with azathioprine.