Adverse effects of low dose methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis patients.


To determine the frequency of adverse effects attributed to Methotrexate (MTX) toxicity and serum minimum toxic concentration with low dose MTX in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients.


Cross-sectional observational study.


Department of Chemical Pathology and Endocrinology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Rawalpindi, from March 2010 to March 2011.


One hundred and forty adult patients of RA receiving low dose MTX (10 mg/week) for at least 3 months, ere included by consecutive sampling. Blood samples were collected 2 hours after the oral dose of MTX. Serum alanine transaminase and creatinine were analyzed on Hitachi and blood counts on Sysmex analyzer. Serum MTX concentration was measured on TDX analyzer.


Out of one hundred and forty patients; 68 males (49%) and 72 females (51%), 38 developed MTX toxicity (27%), comprising of hepatotoxicity in 12 (8.6%), nephrotoxicity in 3 (2.1%), anaemia in 8 (5.7%), leucopenia in 2 (1.4%), thrombocytopenia in 3 (2.1%), pancytopenia in 2 (1.4%), gastrointestinal adverse effects in 5 (3.6%) and mucocutaneous problems in 3 (2.1%). Receiver operating characteristic curve revealed serum minimum toxic concentration of MTX at cutoff value of 0.71 μmol/l with a sensitivity of 71% and specificity of 76%.


Adverse effects of low dose MTX were found in 27% of RA patients, mainly comprising of hepatotoxicity and haematological problems. MTX toxicity can be detected by therapeutic drug monitoring of serum concentration of 0.71 μmol/l with sensitivity of 71% and specificity of 76% in the patients on low dose MTX maintenance therapy.

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