Gastrointestinal function was assessed in six patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had developed diarrhoea on treatment with Auranofin. With the administration of Auranofin whole gut transit time decreased markedly (to 50% or less of control values) in five of six patients. The speed of passage of intestinal contents through the colon was certainly increased but attempts to assess transit through the upper gastrointestinal tract failed because the breath hydrogen method gave inconclusive results. There was no evidence of colitis and in all cases biopsy of the rectal mucosa appeared normal by light microscopy. In the five patients with rapid intestinal transit faecal weight increased more than two-fold (range +44 to +335%) although in only three cases were the changes sufficient to cause an increased frequency of bowel action. Overall the concentration of sodium in faecal water increased three-fold (mean values rose from 10.6 to 38.3 mmol/l). There were no significant changes in the concentrations of either potassium or chloride but bicarbonate was reduced. Faecal pH fell from a mean value of 7.5 (range 6.8-7.9) to a mean value of 6.4 (range 6.0-7.4). In the three patients who developed overt diarrhoea and in two others taking Auranofin the intestinal uptake of 51Cr-EDTA was increased on average three-fold and there was a similar change in the ratio of the absorption of lactulose/mannitol. The mean clearance of alpha-1-antitrypsin from the circulation into the gastrointestinal tract was doubled. These data indicate an increase in intestinal permeability. In contrast the absorption of vitamin B12 was unaffected and there was no significant change in the excretion of faecal fat although one patient developed mild steatorrhoea. Thus in a selected group of subjects with rheumatoid arthritis the administration of Auranofin caused diarrhoea in association with a reversible defect in intestinal permeability but without significant change in the absorption of nutrients.
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