Methotrexate catabolism to 7-hydroxymethotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis alters drug efficacy and retention and is reduced by folic acid supplementation

Academic Article


  • Objective. To assess the catabolism of methotrexate (MTX) to 7-hydroxy-MTX (7-OH-MTX) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis as well as the effect of folic acid and folinic acid on this catabolism. Methods. Urinary excretion of MTX and its catabolite, 7-OH-MTX, was measured in 2 24-hour urine specimens collected after MTX therapy. Urine samples were collected from patients after the sixth and seventh weekly doses of MTX. MTX and 7-OH-MTX concentrations were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. Swelling and pain/ tenderness indices were used to measure symptoms before and at 6 and 7 weeks of therapy. Patients received either folic acid or folinic acid supplements (1 mg/day) from week 6 to week 7. Results. Folic acid inhibited aldehyde oxidase (AO), the enzyme that produces 7-OH-MTX, but folinic acid did not. Excretion of 7-OH-MTX (determined as a percentage of the dose of MTX or as mg 7-OH-MTX/gm creatinine) was not normally distributed (n = 39). Patients with marked improvement in swelling and pain/tenderness indices had a lower mean 7-OH-MTX excretion level (P < 0.05). Patients who received folic acid supplements had decreased 7-OH-MTX excretion (P = 0.03). Relatively high 7-OH-MTX excretion was correlated with relatively high MTX excretion and with relatively low MTX retention in vivo (P < 0.05) (n = 35). Conclusion. Our findings of a non-normal distribution of 7-OH-MTX excretion suggest that there are at least 2 phenotypes for this catabolism. Decreased 7-OHMTX formation suggests folic acid inhibition of AO and a better clinical response, while increased 7-OH-MTX formation may interfere with MTX polyglutamylation and binding to enzymes and, therefore, may increase MTX excretion and decrease MTX retention and efficacy in vivo. © 2009, American College of Rheumatology.
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    Author List

  • Baggott JE; Morgan SL
  • Start Page

  • 2257
  • End Page

  • 2261
  • Volume

  • 60
  • Issue

  • 8