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The most common adverse reactions associated with sulfasalazine in ulcerative colitis are anorexia, headache, nausea, vomiting, gastric distress, and apparently reversible oligospermia. These occur in about one-third of the patients. Less frequent adverse reactions are pruritus, urticaria, rash, fever, Heinz body anemia, hemolytic anemia and cyanosis, which may occur at a frequency of 1 in 30 patients or less. Experience suggests that with a daily dose of 4 g or more, or total serum sulfapyridine levels above 50 μg/mL, the incidence of adverse reactions tends to increase.
Similar adverse reactions are associated with sulfasalazine use in adult rheumatoid arthritis, although there was a greater incidence of some reactions. In rheumatoid arthritis studies, the following common adverse reactions were noted: nausea (19%), dyspepsia (13%), rash (13%), headache (9%), abdominal pain (8%), vomiting (8%), fever (5%), dizziness (4%), stomatitis (4%), pruritis (4%), abnormal liver function tests (4%), leukopenia (3%), and thrombocytopenia (1%). One report7 showed a 10% rate of immunoglobulin suppression, which was slowly reversible and rarely accompanied by clinical findings.
In general, the adverse reactions in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis patients are similar to those seen in patients with adult rheumatoid arthritis except for a high frequency of serum sickness-like syndrome in systemic-course juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (see PRECAUTIONS, Pediatric Use). One clinical trial showed an approximate 10% rate of immunoglobulin suppression.1
Although the listing which follows includes a few adverse reactions which have not been reported with this specific drug, the pharmacological similarities among the sulfonamides require that each of these reactions be considered when AZULFIDINE EN-tabs (sulfasalazine delayed release tablets) is administered.
Less common or rare adverse reactions include:
Hypersensitivity reactions: erythema multiforme (Stevens-Johnson syndrome), exfoliative dermatitis, epidermal necrolysis (Lyell's syndrome) with corneal damage, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS), anaphylaxis, serum sickness syndrome, interstitial lung disease, pneumonitis with or without eosinophilia, vasculitis, fibrosing alveolitis, pleuritis, pericarditis with or without tamponade, allergic myocarditis, polyarteritis nodosa, lupus erythematosus-like syndrome, hepatitis and hepatic necrosis with or without immune complexes, fulminant hepatitis, sometimes leading to liver transplantation, parapsoriasis varioliformis acuta (Mucha-Haberman syndrome), rhabdomyolysis, photosensitization, arthralgia, periorbital edema, conjunctival and scleral injection and alopecia.
Gastrointestinal reactions: hepatitis, hepatic failure, pancreatitis, bloody diarrhea, impaired folic acid absorption, impaired digoxin absorption, stomatitis, diarrhea, abdominal pains, and neutropenic enterocolitis.
Central Nervous System reactions: transverse myelitis, convulsions, meningitis, transient lesions of the posterior spinal column, cauda equina syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, mental depression, vertigo, hearing loss, insomnia, ataxia, hallucinations, tinnitus and drowsiness.
Other reactions: urine discoloration and skin discoloration.
The sulfonamides bear certain chemical similarities to some goitrogens, diuretics (acetazolamide and the thiazides), and oral hypoglycemic agents. Goiter production, diuresis and hypoglycemia have occurred rarely in patients receiving sulfonamides.
Cross-sensitivity may exist with these agents. Rats appear to be especially susceptible to the goitrogenic effects of sulfonamides and long-term administration has produced thyroid malignancies in this species.
The following events have been identified during post-approval use of products which contain (or are metabolized to) mesalamine in clinical practice. Because they are reported voluntarily from a population of unknown size, estimates of frequency cannot be made. These events have been chosen for inclusion due to a combination of seriousness, frequency of reporting, or potential causal connection to mesalamine:
Reports of hepatotoxicity, including elevated liver function tests (SGOT/AST, SGPT/ALT, GGT, LDH, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin), jaundice, cholestatic jaundice, cirrhosis, and possible hepatocellular damage including liver necrosis and liver failure. Some of these cases were fatal. One case of Kawasaki-like syndrome, which included hepatic function changes, was also reported.
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Reduced absorption of folic acid and digoxin have been reported when those agents were administered concomitantly with sulfasalazine.
When daily doses of sulfasalazine 2 g and weekly doses of methotrexate 7.5 mg were coadministered to 15 rheumatoid arthritis patients in a drug-drug interaction study, the pharmacokinetic disposition of the drugs was not altered.
Daily doses of sulfasalazine 2 g (maximum 3 g) and weekly doses of methotrexate 7.5 mg (maximum 15 mg) were administered alone or in combination to 310 rheumatoid arthritis patients in two controlled 52-week clinical studies. The overall toxicity profile of the combination revealed an increased incidence of gastrointestinal adverse events, especially nausea, when compared to the incidence associated with either drug administered alone.
Drug/Laboratory Test Interactions
The presence of sulfasalazine or its metabolites in body fluids has not been reported to interfere with laboratory test procedures.
1. van Rossum MAJ, et al. Sulfasalazine in the treatment of juvenile chronic arthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study. Arth Rheum 1998;41:808–816.
7. Farr M, et al. Immunodeficiencies associated with sulphasalazine therapy in inflammatory arthritis. British Jnl Rheum 1991;30:413–417.
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/2/2009
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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