General: A gastrointestinal hypersensitivity reaction characterized by severe nausea and vomiting has been reported. These symptoms may also be accompanied by diarrhea, rash, fever, malaise, myalgias, elevations in liver enzymes, and occasionally, hypotension. Symptoms of gastrointestinal toxicity most often develop within the first several weeks of therapy with AZASAN and are reversible upon discontinuation of the drug. The reaction can recur within hours after re-challenge with a single dose of AZASAN.
Information for Patients: Patients being started on AZASAN should be informed of the necessity of periodic blood counts while they are receiving the drug and should be encouraged to report any unusual bleeding or bruising to their physician. They should be informed of the danger of infection while receiving AZASAN and asked to report signs and symptoms of infection to their physician. Careful dosage instructions should be given to the patient, especially when AZASAN is being administered in the presence of impaired renal function or concomitantly with allopurinol (see PRECAUTIONS:Drug Interactions and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Patients should be advised of the potential risks of the use of AZASAN during pregnancy and during the nursing period. The increased risk of malignancy following therapy with AZASAN should be explained to the patient.
Complete Blood Count (CBC) Monitoring: Patients on AZASAN should have complete blood counts, including platelet counts, weekly during the first month, twice monthly for the second and third months of treatment, then monthly or more frequently if dosage alterations or other therapy changes are necessary.
TPMT and NUDT15 Testing: Consider genotyping or phenotyping patients for TPMT deficiency and genotyping for NUDT15 deficiency in patients with severe myelosuppression. TPMT and NUDT15 testing cannot substitute for complete blood count (CBC) monitoring in patients receiving AZASAN. Accurate phenotyping (red blood cell TPMT activity) results are not possible in patients who have received recent blood transfusions (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS:Cytopenias, ADVERSE REACTIONSand DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATIONsections).
Use with xanthine oxidase (XO) inhibitors: One of the pathways for inactivation of azathioprine is inhibited by XO inhibitors (allopurinol or febuxostat). Patients receiving AZASAN and allopurinol concomitantly should have a dose reduction of AZASAN, to approximately 1/3 to 1/4 the usual dose. Concomitant use of AZASAN with febuxostat is not recommended. Inhibition of XO may cause increased plasma concentrations of azathioprine or its metabolite, 6-MP, leading to toxicity. It is recommended that a further dose reduction or alternative therapies be considered for patients with low or absent TPMT activity receiving AZASAN and xanthine oxidase inhibitors because both TPMT and XO inactivation pathways are affected. See CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS: Laboratory Tests and ADVERSE REACTIONS.
Use with Aminosalicylates: There is in vitro evidence that aminosalicylate derivatives (e.g., sulphasalazine, mesalazine, or olsalazine) inhibit the TPMT enzyme. Concomitant use of these agents with AZASAN should be done with caution.
Use with Other Agents Affecting Myelopoesis: Drugs which may affect leukocyte production, including co-trimoxazole, may lead to exaggerated leukopenia, especially in renal transplant recipients.
Use with Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors: The use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors to control hypertension in patients on azathioprine has been reported to induce anemia and severe leukopenia.
Use with Warfarin: AZASAN may inhibit the anticoagulant effect of warfarin.
Use with Ribavirin: The use of ribavirin for hepatitis C in patients receiving azathioprine has been reported to induce severe pancytopenia and may increase the risk of azathioprine-related myelotoxicity. Inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMDH) is required for one of the metabolic pathways of azathioprine. Ribavirin is known to inhibit IMDH, thereby leading to accumulation of an azathioprine metabolite, 6-methylthioionosine monophosphate (6-MTITP), which is associated with myelotoxicity (neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, and anemia). Patients receiving azathioprine with ribavirin should have complete blood counts, including platelet counts, monitored weekly for the first month, twice monthly for the second and third months of treatment, then monthly or more frequently if dosage or other therapy changes are necessary.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility:
Teratogenic Effects: Pregnancy Category D. See WARNINGS.
Nursing Mothers: The use of AZASAN in nursing mothers is not recommended. Azathioprine or its metabolites are transferred at low levels, both transplacentally and in breast milk. 8, 9, 10 Because of the potential for tumorigenicity shown for azathioprine, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.
Pediatric Use: Safety and efficacy of azathioprine in pediatric patients have not been established.
The principal and potentially serious toxic effects of AZASAN are hematologic and gastrointestinal. The risks of secondary infection and malignancy are also significant (see WARNINGS). The frequency and severity of adverse reactions depend on the dose and duration of AZASAN as well as on the patient’s underlying disease or concomitant therapies. The incidence of hematologic toxicities and neoplasia encountered in groups of renal homograft recipients is significantly higher than that in studies employing AZASAN for rheumatoid arthritis. The relative incidences in clinical studies are summarized below:
|Toxicity||Renal Homograft||Rheumatoid Arthritis|
|<2500 cell/mm 3||16%||5.3%|
*Data on the rate and risk of neoplasia among persons with rheumatoid arthritis treated with azathioprine are limited. The incidence of lymphoproliferative disease in patients with RA appears to be significantly higher than that in the general population. In one completed study, the rate of lymphoproliferative disease in RA patients receiving higher than recommended doses of azathioprine (5 mg/kg/day) was 1.8 cases per 1000 patient-years of follow-up, compared with 0.8 cases per 1000 patient years of follow-up in those not receiving azathioprine. However, the proportion of the increased risk attributable to the azathioprine dosage or to other therapies (i.e., alkylating agents) received by patients treated with azathioprine cannot be determined.
Hematologic: Leukopenia and/or thrombocytopenia are dose-dependent and may occur late in the course of therapy with AZASAN. Dose reduction or temporary withdrawal may result in reversal of these toxicities. Infection may occur as a secondary manifestation of bone marrow suppression or leukopenia, but the incidence of infection in renal homotransplantation is 30 to 60 times that in rheumatoid arthritis. Anemias, including macrocytic anemia and/or bleeding have been reported.
Patients with low or absent TPMT or NUDT15 activity are at increased risk for severe, life-threatening myelosuppression from AZASAN. See CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS:Cytopenias, PRECAUTIONS, Laboratory Tests and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION.
Gastrointestinal: Nausea and vomiting may occur within the first few months of therapy with AZASAN, and occurred in approximately 12% of 676 rheumatoid arthritis patients. The frequency of gastric disturbance often can be reduced by administration of the drug in divided doses and/ or after meals. However, in some patients, nausea and vomiting may be severe and may be accompanied by symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, malaise, and myalgias (see PRECAUTIONS). Vomiting with abdominal pain may occur rarely with a hypersensitivity pancreatitis. Hepatotoxicity manifest by elevation of serum alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin, and/ or serum transaminases is known to occur following azathioprine use, primarily in allograft recipients. Hepatotoxicity has been uncommon (less than 1%) in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Hepatotoxicity following transplantation most often occurs within 6 months of transplantation and is generally reversible after interruption of AZASAN. A rare, but life-threatening hepatic veno-occlusive disease associated with chronic administration of azathioprine has been described in transplant patients and in one patient receiving azathioprine for panuveitis. 11, 12, 13 Periodic measurement of serum transaminases, alkaline phosphatase, and bilirubin is indicated for early detection of hepatotoxicity. If hepatic veno-occlusive disease is clinically suspected, AZASAN should be permanently withdrawn.
Others: Additional side effects of low frequency have been reported. These include skin rashes, alopecia, fever, arthralgias, diarrhea, steatorrhea, negative nitrogen balance, reversible interstitial pneumonitis, hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma (see Warnings — Malignancy), and Sweet’s Syndrome (acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis).
To report SUSPECTED ADVERS REACTIONS, contact Valeant Pharmaceuticals North America LLC at 1-800-321-4576 or FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.
The oral LD 50 s for single doses of AZASAN 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 AZASAN is bound to serum proteins, but approximately 45% is removed during an 8-hour hemodialysis. 14 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.
Patients with TPMT and/or NUDT Deficiency: Consider testing for TPMT and NUDT15 deficiency in patients who experience severe bone marrow toxicities. Early drug discontinutation may be considered in patients with abnormal CBC results that do ot 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 substandial dosage reductions (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS:Cytopenias, and PRECAUTIONS:Laboratory Tests).
Renal Homotransplantation: The dose of AZASAN 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. AZASAN 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 AZASAN 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: AZASAN 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/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. AZASAN 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 AZASAN has not been determined. AZASAN can be discontinued abruptly, but delayed effects are possible.
Use in Renal Dysfunction: Relatively oliguric patients, especially those with tubular necrosis in the immediate postcadaveric transplant period, may have delayed clearance of AZASAN 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 published 15-21.There is no general agreement that all of the procedures recommended in the guidelines are necessary or appropriate.
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