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Thrombocytopenia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis on long-term treatment with low dose methotrexate

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We reviewed the records of 315 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with low-dose methotrexate (MTX) and evaluated the conditions contributing to thrombocytopenia. Thirteen out of 315 patients with RA presented with low platelet counts (≤ 100.000/mm3). The age of these patients (51±12.6 years) did not correlate with thrombocytopenia (r=0.211, p>0.05).

Thrombocytopenia resulted from coadministration of MTX and NSAID or multiple drug interactions. We observed a significant (r=0.48, p<0.05) increase of discontinuation of NSAID's but not of MTX therapy (r=0.42, p>0.05) with a mounting weekly dosage of MTX (12.5±5 mg orally). There was a significant correlation between this weekly dosage of MTX coadministered on the same day with NSAID and thrombocytopenia (r=0.6, p<0.05).

In most cases (9/13) MTX was not or just temporarily withdrawn. Three of the remaining patients had multiple drug interactions. Reintroduction of low dose MTX treatment in patients having had thrombocytopenia could be performed safely, if thrombocytopenia occurred as a result of concomitant application of MTX and NSAID and no other multiple drug interactions. Preferably, MTX and NSAID should be given to these risk patients on separate days or intervals considering half time clearance of NSAIDs. This procedure has avoided the reoccurrence of thrombocytopenia and controlled further drug interactions of NSAIDs and MTX in our patients.

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Correspondence to H. Franck M.D..

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Franck, H., Rau, R. & Herborn, G. Thrombocytopenia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis on long-term treatment with low dose methotrexate. Clin Rheumatol 15, 163–167 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02230334

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Key words

  • Thrombocytopenia
  • MTX
  • RA