Precision Medicine with Leflunomide: Consideration of the DHODH Haplotype and Plasma Teriflunomide Concentration and Modification of Outcomes in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Michael D. Wiese, Ashley Hopkins, Catherine King, Mihir D. Wechalekar, Anita Lee, Llewellyn Spargo, Robert Metcalf, Leah McWilliams, Catherine Hill, Leslie G. Cleland, Susanna M. Proudman

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Leflunomide is a commonly used disease-modifying drug in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Its effects are mediated via inhibition of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) by its active metabolite teriflunomide, and the pharmacokinetics of teriflunomide are highly variable. Our objective was to examine the association between the DHODH haplotype and plasma teriflunomide concentration with response to leflunomide in patients with RA where leflunomide was added to an existing disease-modifying drug regimen after failure to achieve an adequate response with conventional triple therapy. METHODS: Patients with RA who were taking, or were about to initiate, leflunomide were included. Participant characteristics, including the DHODH haplotype, were determined. Up to 5 plasma samples were collected after leflunomide was initiated for assays of total and free teriflunomide concentration. Disease activity was determined via the 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28). The association between DAS28 scores and patient covariates was determined by linear mixed-effects modeling. RESULTS: A total of 67 patients were included in the study. The DAS28 score after initiation of leflunomide was associated with the baseline DAS28 score (β = 0.70, P < 0.001) and was higher in those who carried the DHODH haplotype 2 (β = 0.56. P = 0.01) and did not carry the shared epitope (β = 0.56, P = 0.013). As total and free plasma teriflunomide concentration increased, the DAS28 score was significantly lower (P < 0.001 and P = 0.001, respectively). When considering threshold concentrations, teriflunomide concentrations >16 mg/liter were associated with a DAS28 score that was 0.33 lower, and when free teriflunomide concentration was >35 µg/liter, the DAS28 score was 0.32 lower. CONCLUSION: Teriflunomide concentration and carriage of the DHODH haplotype 2 are associated with response to leflunomide in patients with RA, and a total plasma teriflunomide concentration of at least 16 mg/liter is needed to maximize the likelihood of response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-989
Number of pages7
JournalArthritis Care & Research
Volume73
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Dihydroorotate Dehydrogenase
  • Leflunomide
  • teriflunomide
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • pharmacogenomics
  • therapeutic drug monitoring
  • precision medicine

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