Anti-hyperuricemic drugs are used to treat hyperuricemia, the state of having too much uric acid in the blood.
Anti-hyperuricemic drugs decrease the levels of uric acid in the blood, either by increasing the rate at which uric acid is excreted in the urine, or by preventing the formation of excess uric acid.
Before taking any medication, patients should notify their physician of all other medications that they are currently taking. Patients should also notify their physician of any health problems they are currently experiencing. Patients must notify physicians if they have kidney problems, since this might affect the type of drug administered. Patients must also notify their physician if they are allergic to any of the medications used to treat acute or long-term gout. Since all of these factors contribute to the disease, patients suffering from gout should attempt to lose weight, avoid excess alcohol consumption, and avoid foods high in purines, such as asparagus, sardines, lobster, avocado, and peas.
Gout and hyperuricemia
Persons with high levels of uric acid (hyperuricemia) may experience gout. Commonly gout occurs in males in their 40s and 50s. Gout is defined by the attacks of (arthritic) painful, reddened joints, and is often accompanied by hard lumps in the painful joints. The most common joint affected is the big toe. Kidney stones, and/or poor kidney function may also be associated with hyperuricemia, but may not be considered gout if the patient does not have painful joints. In persons with gout (and associated symptoms), uric acid forms crystals, which then cause the aforementioned symptoms. Although uric acid levels must be high in order for patients to have crystals form, and therefore have gout, most persons with high uric acid levels don't ever have symptoms. Thus, recent criteria for use of anti-hyperuricemic agents suggest that patients who have never experienced symptoms of gout should not receive drug therapy, unless their hyperuricemia is associated with cancer (may lead to kidney damage) or certain rare
Acute gout attacks
When patients experience acute attacks of gout, drugs that lower the levels of uric acid can cause an acute gout attack or cause an attack to become more severe. Thus, drugs that lower uric acid levels and are used to treat gout in the long term are not used in the short term. Medications used in acute gout attacks include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as indomethacin), colchicine, and corticosteroids. Colchicine causes side effects in a large number of individuals (usually diarhhea). The most important factor in the effective treatment of gout may not be the drug used, but how quickly it is administered after an acute attack has begun.
Long-term treatment of gout or hyperuricemia usually involves one of four drugs: allopurinol, probenicid, sulphinpyrazone, or benzbromarone (as of this printing in 2001, benzbromarone is not available for use in the United States). While allopurinol decreases the amount of uric acid that is produced (and may help prevent acute attacks of gout), the other drugs all increase the rate at which uric acid is excreted in the urine. As previously mentioned, lowering the concentration of uric acid can cause gout attacks. Thus, patients taking these medications should have the dose slowly increased (and uric acid levels slowly lowered) to prevent acute attacks of gout. Patients may also be treated with colchicine or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent acute attacks of gout (corticosteroids are not used in this scenario because over the long term corticosteroids have deleterious side effects).
Michael V Zuck, PhD