Objective: To determine whether the nonsteroidal antiandrogenic drug flutamide is a clinically relevant inducer of methemoglobinemia in patients with prostatic cancer.
Methods: Fifty consecutive outpatients with prostatic cancer stage D2 entered the study (age 71.1 +/- 7.3 y). Five patients were lost to follow-up; the remaining 45 patients received the recommended oral dose of flutamide 250 mg three times daily. Total hemoglobin (Hb) and methemoglobin (Met-Hb) concentrations were measured on varying days using an ultraviolet/visible-spectrophotometric method with an intra- and interday variability < 8%. In 12 patients, Met-Hb was analyzed before initiating flutamide therapy and after therapy was begun.
Results: On average, 2.6 venous blood samples per patient were analyzed with a mean Met-Hb concentration of 1.9% of total Hb. Mean concentrations of > or = 3% were detected in only six patients (13%). The data from 12 patients evaluated before and after initiating flutamide therapy were without significantly different changes. During the study period, no clinical signs of methemoglobinemia were reported or observed.
Conclusions: This study found no clinically relevant increase of Met-Hb concentrations in elderly patients with prostatic cancer during chronic treatment with flutamide. However, clinicians should be aware of the very rare possibility of flutamide-induced methemoglobinemia.