The oral LD50 s for single doses of azathioprine in mice and rats are 2500 mg/kg and 400 mg/kg, respectively. Very large doses of this antimetabolite may lead to marrow hypoplasia, bleeding, infection, and death. About 30% of azathioprine is bound to serum proteins, but approximately 45% is removed during an 8-hour hemodialysis14. A single case has been reported of a renal transplant patient who ingested a single dose of 7500 mg azathioprine. The immediate toxic reactions were nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, followed by mild leukopenia and mild abnormalities in liver function. The white blood cell count, SGOT, and bilirubin returned to normal 6 days after the overdose.
Renal Homotransplantation: The dose of azathioprine required to prevent rejection and minimize toxicity will vary with individual patients; this necessitates careful management. The initial dose is usually 3 to 5 mg/kg daily, beginning at the time of transplant. Azathioprine is usually given as a single daily dose on the day of, and in a minority of cases 1 to 3 days before, transplantation. Dose reduction to maintenance levels of 1 to 3 mg/kg daily is usually possible. The dose of azathioprine should not be increased to toxic levels because of threatened rejection. Discontinuation may be necessary for severe hematologic or other toxicity, even if rejection of the homograft may be a consequence of drug withdrawal.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Azathioprine is usually given on a daily basis. The initial dose should be approximately 1.0 mg/kg (50 to 100 mg) given as a single dose or on a twice-daily schedule. The dose may be increased, beginning at 6 to 8 weeks and thereafter by steps at 4-week intervals, if there are no serious toxicities and if initial response is unsatisfactory. Dose increments should be 0.5 mg/kg daily, up to a maximum dose of 2.5 mg/kg per day. Therapeutic response occurs after several weeks of treatment, usually 6 to 8; an adequate trial should be a minimum of 12 weeks. Patients not improved after 12 weeks can be considered refractory. Azathioprine may be continued long-term in patients with clinical response, but patients should be monitored carefully, and gradual dosage reduction should be attempted to reduce risk of toxicities.
Maintenance therapy should be at the lowest effective dose, and the dose given can be lowered decrementally with changes of 0.5 mg/kg or approximately 25 mg daily every 4 weeks while other therapy is kept constant. The optimum duration of maintenance azathioprine has not been determined. Azathioprine can be discontinued abruptly, but delayed effects are possible.
Patients with TPMT and/or NUDT15 Deficiency
Consider testing for TPMT and NUDT15 deficiency in patients who experience severe bone marrow toxicities. Early drug discontinuation may be considered in patients with abnormal CBC results that do not respond to dose reduction (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS: Cytopenias, and PRECAUTIONS: Laboratory Tests).
Homozygous deficiency in either TPMT or NUDT15
Because of the risk of increased toxicity, consider alternative therapies for patients who are known to have TPMT or NUDT15 deficiency (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS: Cytopenias, and PRECAUTIONS: Laboratory Tests).
Heterozygous deficiency in TPMT and/or NUDT15
Because of the risk of increased toxicity, dosage reduction is recommended in patients known to have heterozygous deficiency of TPMT or NUDT15. Patients who are heterozygous for both TPMT and NUDT15 deficiency may require more substantial dosage reductions (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS: Cytopenias, and PRECAUTIONS: Laboratory Tests).
Use in Renal Dysfunction: Relatively oliguric patients, especially those with tubular necrosis in the immediate postcadaveric transplant period, may have delayed clearance of azathioprine or its metabolites, may be particularly sensitive to this drug, and are usually given lower doses.
Procedures for proper handling and disposal of this immunosuppressive antimetabolite drug should be considered. Several guidelines on this subject have been published15-21. There is no general agreement that all of the procedures recommended in the guidelines are necessary or appropriate.
Azathioprine Tablets USP, 50 mg
Yellow, round, scored tablets (Identified 54 043).
Bottle of 100 Tablets: NDC 60219-1076-1
Store at 20° to 25°C (68° to 77°F) [see USP Controlled Room Temperature]. Dispense in a tight, light-resistant container as defined in the USP/NF.
PROTECT FROM LIGHT. PROTECT FROM MOISTURE.
- Clark JM. The mutagenicity of azathioprine in mice, Drosophila melanogaster, and Neurospora crassa. Mutat Res. 1975; 28:87-99.
- Data on file, Sebela Ireland Ltd.
- Tagatz GE, Simmons RL. Pregnancy after renal transplantation. Ann Intern Med. 1975; 82:113-114. Editorial Notes.
- Cote’ CJ, Meuwissen HJ, Pickering RJ. Effects on the neonate of prednisone and azathioprine administered to the mother during pregnancy. J Pediatr. 1974; 85:324-328.
- DeWitte DB, Buick MK, Cyran SE, et al. Neonatal pancytopenia and severe combined immunodeficiency associated with antenatal administration of azathioprine and prednisone. J Pediatr. 1984; 105:625-628.
- Williamson RA, Karp LE. Azathioprine teratogenicity: review of the literature and case report. Obstet Gynecol. 1981; 58:247-250.
- Tallent MB, Simmons RL, Najarian JS. Birth defects in child of male recipient of kidney transplant. JAMA. 1970; 211: 1854-1855.
- Data on file, Sebela Ireland Ltd.
- Saarikoski S, Seppälä M. Immunosuppression during pregnancy: transmission of azathioprine and its metabolites from the mother to the fetus. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1973; 115:1100-1106.
- Coulam CB, Moyer TP, Jiang NS, et al. Breast-feeding after renal transplantation. Transplant Proc. 1982; 14: 605-609.
- Read AE, Wiesner RH, LaBrecque DR, et al. Hepatic veno-occlusive disease associated with renal transplantation and azathioprine therapy. Ann Intern Med. 1986; 104:651-655.
- Katzka DA, Saul SH, Jorkasky D, et al. Azathioprine and hepatic veno-occlusive disease in renal transplant patients. Gastroenterology. 1986; 90:446-454.
- Weitz H, Gokel JM, Loeshke K, et al. Veno-occlusive disease of the liver in patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy. Virchows Arch A Pathol Anat Histol. 1982; 395:245-256.
- Schusziarra V, Ziekursch V, Schlamp R, et al. Pharmacokinetics of azathioprine under haemodialysis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Biopharm. 1976; 14:298-302.
- Recommendations for the safe handling of parenteral antineoplastic drugs. Washington, DC: Division of Safety; Clinical Center Pharmacy Department and Cancer Nursing Services, National Institute of Health; 1992. US Dept of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service Publication NIH 92-2621.
- AMA Council on Scientific Affairs. Guidelines for handling parenteral antineoplastics. JAMA. 1985; 253:1590-1592.
- National Study Commission on Cytotoxic Exposure. Recommendations for handling cytotoxic agents. 1987. Available from Louis P. Jeffrey, Chairman, National Study Commission on Cytotoxic Exposure. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences, 179 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.
- Clinical Oncological Society of Australia. Guidelines and recommendations for safe handling of antineoplastic agents. Med J Aust. 1983; 1:426-428.
- Jones RB, Frank R, Mass T. Safe handling of chemotherapeutic agents: a report from The Mount Sinai Medical Center. CA Cancer J for Clinicians. 1983; 33:258-263.
- American Society of Hospital Pharmacists. ASHP technical assistance bulletin on handling cytotoxic and hazardous drugs. Am J Hosp Pharm. 1990; 47:1033-1049.
- Yodaiken RE, Bennett D. OSHA Work-Practice guidelines for personnel dealing with cytotoxic (antineoplastic) drugs. Am J Hosp Pharm , 1996; 43:1193-1204.
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