Background: Clinically relevant drug-drug interactions (DDIs) must be recognized in a timely manner and managed appropriately to prevent adverse drug reactions or therapeutic failure. Because the evidence for most DDIs is based on case reports or poorly documented clinical information, there is a need for better assessment of their clinical relevance.
Objective: This study evaluates the interdisciplinary agreement between rheumatologists and clinical (hospital) pharmacists in assessing the clinical relevance of DDIs with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and non-DMARD medications.
Methods: Potential DDIs were identified from the medical literature using MEDLINE and EMBASE for the years 1968-2009. The following search terms were used for the key word, title, and abstract sections of the publications: interaction(s), DMARD, disease-modifying antirheumatic drug(s), antirheumatic, rheumatology, rheumatoid arthritis, and the names of the individual DMARDs of interest (abatacept, adalimumab, anakinra, auranofin, aurothioglucose, aurothiomalate, d-penicillamine, etanercept, gold, [hydroxy]-chloroquine, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, IL1-RA, infliximab, leflunomide, methotrexate, rituximab, and sulfasalazine/sulphasalazine). Reference lists of the retrieved publications were searched for further information on potential DDIs. All pharmacodynamic or pharmacokinetic DDIs between a DMARD and a non-DMARD identified were included in the study, with the exception of evidence regarding DMARD doses higher than used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and interactions with phytotherapeutic or homeopathic preparations. Using a standard information set for each DDI (eg, from product labeling, textbooks, and the medical literature), a group of rheumatologists and a group of clinical pharmacists independently assessed whether the individual drug-DMARD combinations interacted and whether they required immediate intervention. Both groups consisted of 3 members (2 men and 1 woman), aged 40 to 60 years, who had >5 years of clinical experience and were currently involved in clinical practice in large, nonacademic teaching hospitals in the Netherlands.
Results: Forty potential DDIs with DMARDs were retrieved and assessed by the 2 groups. For 30 (75%) of these, rheumatologists and clinical pharmacists agreed about the requirement for immediate intervention. Specifically, 17 drug combinations (43%) were judged to interact and to require immediate intervention, and 13 combinations (33%) were judged either not to interact or to interact but not to require immediate intervention. For 10 combinations (25%), rheumatologists and clinical pharmacists were not in agreement. Overall, agreement between the groups was good (kappa = 0.80) for judging whether the drug combinations were interactions, and agreement was fair (kappa = 0.39) for judging whether immediate intervention was required. Prospective analysis of the data showed that rheumatologists tended to recommend immediate intervention more often when the adverse reaction to the DDI involved an increased risk of toxicity of the DMARD. In contrast, clinical pharmacists more often advocated immediate intervention when the adverse reaction involved decreased effectiveness of the DMARD.
Conclusion: For a subset of DMARD-drug combinations, rheumatologists and clinical pharmacists differed in their assessments of clinical relevance.