A large clinical trial indicated that the drug febuxostat resulted in lower levels of serum uric acid than allopurinol, the agent currently used to treat the painful form of arthritis in which uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints. According to researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, both allopurinol and febuxostat will reduce blood levels of uric acid, thereby preventing these deposits from forming. The trial included 762 people with gout who were randomly assigned to take allopurinol or one of 2 doses of febuxostat80 mg/day or 120 mg/day. The goal, which was a reduction of uric acid level to no more than 6 mg/dL of blood, was achieved in 53% of the 80-mg/day group, 62% of the 120- mg/day group, and 21% of the allopurinol group. According to study author Michael A. Becker, MD, the difference between the 2 drugs is that allopurinol is metabolized by the kidneys, and febuxostat is metabolized by the liverwhich would make febuxostat preferable for people with weak kidney function. Longer-term studies are needed to determine the drug's efficacy after 1 year.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.