Mesalazine has structural similarities to aspirin and phenacetin and is nephrotoxic when given intravenously in high doses to rats. A number of cases of nephrotoxicity has been reported recently in patients taking oral mesalazine. Sensitive indicators of renal function in a group of patients maintained on long term, delayed release mesalazine and a comparable group on sulphasalazine have been studied. Sixty two patients (32 men, aged 28-82 years) with quiescent colitis were studied. Thirty four had been maintained on delayed release mesalazine 1.6 (0.8-2.4) g/day for 2.9 (0.5-6.9) years and 28 on sulphasalazine 2 (2-3) g/day. Groups were comparable for age, sex, disease duration, and disease extent. Renal function was assessed by: urine microscopy; creatinine clearance; the urinary excretion of two markers of glomerular toxicity, albumin and transferrin; and the urinary excretion for two markers of tubular toxicity, N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase (NAG) and alpha 1-microglobulin. There were no significant differences in renal function between the two treatment groups. Furthermore, no correlations were found between measures of renal function and either cumulative mesalazine dose or mesalazine treatment duration. In this study, long term maintenance treatment with delayed release mesalazine was no more nephrotoxic than continued treatment with sulphasalazine.
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