Drug-associated hyperammonaemia: a Bayesian analysis of the WHO Pharmacovigilance Database

Ann Intensive Care. 2022 Jun 18;12(1):55. doi: 10.1186/s13613-022-01026-4.


Background: Hyperammonaemia is frequent in Intensive Care Unit patients. Some drugs have been described as associated with this condition, but there are no large-scale studies investigating this topic and most descriptions only consist of case-reports.

Methods: We performed a disproportionality analysis using VigiBase, the World Health Organization Pharmacovigilance Database, using the information component (IC). The IC compares observed and expected values to find associations between drugs and hyperammonaemia using disproportionate Bayesian reporting. An IC0.25 (lower end of the IC 95% credibility interval) > 0 is considered statistically significant. The main demographic and clinical features, confounding factors, and severity of cases have been recorded.

Results: We identified 71 drugs with a disproportionate reporting in 2924 cases of hyperammonaemia. Most of the suspected drugs could be categorised into 4 main therapeutic classes: oncologic drugs, anti-epileptic drugs, immunosuppressants and psychiatric drugs. The drugs most frequently involved were valproic acid, fluorouracil, topiramate, oxaliplatin and asparaginase. In addition to these molecules known to be responsible for hyperammonaemia, our study reported 60 drugs not previously identified as responsible for hyperammonaemia. These include recently marketed molecules including anti-epileptics such as cannabidiol, immunosuppressants such as basiliximab, and anti-angiogenics agents such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (sunitinib, sorafenib, regorafenib, lenvatinib) and monoclonal antibodies (bevacizumab, ramucirumab). The severity of cases varies depending on the drug class involved and high mortality rates are present when hyperammonaemia occurs in patients receiving immunosuppressant and oncologic drugs.

Conclusions: This study constitutes the first large-scale study on drug-associated hyperammonaemia. This description may prove useful for clinicians in patients' care as well as for trial design.