Low-Dose Azathioprine in Combination with Allopurinol: The Past, Present and Future of This Useful Duo

Dig Dis Sci. 2022 Dec;67(12):5382-5391. doi: 10.1007/s10620-022-07719-x. Epub 2022 Oct 15.


The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are complex immune-mediated inflammatory diseases that are associated with significant morbidity around the world. As our understanding of IBD, and other immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, advances the number of therapeutic targets has increased which has rapidly driven the development and introduction of new therapies. While these new therapies have shown promise they come with the significant drawback of high costs. For many IBD patients around the world the cost of newer therapies is prohibitive which means treating clinicians often need to turn to optimising simpler, older, and inexpensive medications. The concept of optimising well established cheaper medications is not unique to the management of IBD as health systems all over the world look to reduce costs while simultaneously improving patient outcomes. Despite thiopurines being used in the management IBD for over 60 years, many clinicians are still hesitant to use them due to perceptions around limited efficacy and poor tolerance. One method identified to potentially increase utilisation of thiopurines involves the coadministration of allopurinol. In this review we will explore the history, pharmacology, recent studies and give recommendations for the utilisation of the usual duo of azathioprine combined with allopurinol.

Keywords: Allopurinol; Azathioprine; Inflammatory bowel disease; Metabolite monitoring; Thiopurine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allopurinol / pharmacology
  • Allopurinol / therapeutic use
  • Azathioprine* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Mercaptopurine / therapeutic use


  • Azathioprine
  • Allopurinol
  • Mercaptopurine
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Immunosuppressive Agents