Background The thiopurines azathioprine and mercaptopurine remain pivotal maintenance treatments in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); however, up to 15%-20% of patients preferentially produce the hepatotoxic metabolite 6-methylmercaptopurine (6MMP) at the expense of the therapeutic 6-thioguanine nucleotides (6TGN). This metabolic shunting usually begins within 3 months of therapy. We noted patients developing shunting many months or years after starting treatment and aimed to determine how often this late shunting occurs and whether this could be explained by patient factors or concomitant medications. Methods The New Zealand database of thiopurine metabolite results from 2002 to 2016 (19085 6TGN/6MMP pairs from 7130 patients) was interrogated to identify patients developing a 6MMP/6TGN ratio >20 after at least 4 months treatment. Dosing history, concomitant therapy, and comorbidity data were assessed. Results Fifteen percent of database patients developed preferential 6-MMP production, and of these, 29 patients had late-onset shunting with sufficient data available for validation. This extrapolates to 90 patients in total, representing 1.7% of IBD patients on thiopurines, or 10% of all those with preferential 6-MMP production. Time from starting therapy to shunting was 5 months to 10.4 years (median, 21 months). Eleven patients had abnormal liver function when shunting was recognized, all with 6MMP >5900 pmol/8 × 10 8 red blood cells. No common factors were found to explain the late onset. Conclusions Some IBD patients develop preferential 6MMP production many months or years after commencing therapy. This is important when considering frequency of metabolite monitoring, failure of therapy, or abnormal liver function.
Munnig-Schmidt, E., Zhang, M., Mulder, C. J., & Barclay, M. L. (2018). Late-onset Rise of 6-MMP Metabolites in IBD Patients on Azathioprine or Mercaptopurine. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 24(4), 892-896. https://doi.org/10.1093/ibd/izx081