Cimetidine for erythropoietic protoporphyria

Photodiagnosis Photodyn Ther. 2022 Jun:38:102793. doi: 10.1016/j.pdpdt.2022.102793. Epub 2022 Mar 2.


Background: Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) is caused by deficiency of the enzyme converting protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) into heme resulting in accumulation of PpIX; leading to photosensitivity and liver toxicity. Cimetidine might inhibit δ-aminolevulinic acid synthase influencing the heme biosynthesis. We present cases with EPP treated with cimetidine at our department, and a literature review.

Methods: Systematic searches were performed to identify literature describing EPP patients treated with cimetidine. On that ground we treated EPP patients with cimetidine through spring and summer in 2020 and 2021 at our department. Their erythrocyte PpIX level and standard blood and liver parameters were collected before and during 4 months of treatment. Using a questionnaire, patients were asked about change in photosensitivity, side effects, and whether they would like to resume treatment in the spring of 2022.

Results: Literature searches identified 9 patients treated with cimetidine. Four were outpatients reporting decreased photosensitivity. At our department 18 outpatients started treatment. Fifteen used oral cimetidine daily for 4 months or more providing a significant decrease in erythrocyte PpIX with a median of 20% (range: -18% to 53%) after 4 months. Eleven of the 15 patients reported a decrease in photosensitivity during treatment, 3 patients were unsure, and 1 patient experienced unchanged photosensitivity. Only mild side effects were reported. Fourteen patients requested to resume treatment in the spring of 2022.

Conclusions: These cases suggest that cimetidine can lower erythrocyte PpIX in patients with EPP.

Keywords: Cimetidine; Erythropoietic protoporphyria; Hepatology; Photosensitivity; Protoporphyrin IX; Questionnaire.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cimetidine / therapeutic use
  • Ferrochelatase
  • Heme
  • Humans
  • Photochemotherapy* / methods
  • Photosensitivity Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Protoporphyria, Erythropoietic*
  • Protoporphyrins / metabolism


  • Protoporphyrins
  • Heme
  • Cimetidine
  • Ferrochelatase