Putting recommendations into practice: Australian rheumatologists' opinions on leflunomide use in rheumatoid arthritis.
Leflunomide is the most recently introduced conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in Australia. It has several unique methods for initiation, unique monitoring recommendations and a distinctive cessation protocol in the event of serious toxicity. The aim of this study was to evaluate initiation and monitoring practices of Australian rheumatologists using leflunomide. A survey was emailed twice, approximately 3 months apart to 332 rheumatologist members of the Australian Rheumatology Association. Wave analysis was used to assess evidence of non-response bias. The response rate to the survey was 20% and there was no difference between the responses of waves 1 and 2. Fifty percent of the respondents indicated that 20 mg once daily was the initial dose of leflunomide that they most commonly prescribed, 45% indicated 10 mg once daily, whilst only 3% preferred to initiate leflunomide at 100 mg daily for 2-3 days followed by 10 mg once a day as recommended when first marketed. Of the responders, 12% had used doses above 20 mg daily and 70% had used alternate daily dosing with leflunomide. In a patient taking leflunomide with an ALT or AST >3 times the ULN on two or more blood tests, 75% of responders indicated they would stop leflunomide immediately and 20% would follow cessation by administering a cholestyramine washout. The choice of initial leflunomide dose among responding Australian rheumatologists varied considerably, although most preferred not to use the loading dose. Despite the recommendation of clinical guidelines, the use of a cholestyramine washout procedure for hepatic toxicity is not universal.