Gout is a common and disabling cause of arthritis in middle-aged and elderly populations, with its main predisposing factor being hyperuricemia (serum urate > 6.8 mg/dL). Options for treatment of chronic gout until 2008 were allopurinol, a xanthine oxidase inhibitor, and the group of drugs known as uricosurics that stimulate the renal excretion of uric acid. A proportion of patients, including some with chronic kidney disease and solid organ transplantations, could not be treated with the those therapies because of intolerance, drug interactions, or adverse events. Febuxostat is a nonpurine xanthine oxidase inhibitor, recently approved in Europe and the United States for the treatment of chronic gout.
To review the clinical evidence (phase II and III studies) of the effectiveness and safety of febuxostat for treatment of hyperuricemia and gout.
Febuxostat, at doses ranging from 40 to 240 mg/day, is efficacious in reducing serum urate in patients with hyperuricemia and gout, comparing favorably with fixed doses of allopurinol in that respect. Early safety signals with respect to liver test abnormalities and cardiovascular outcomes have not been confirmed in recent large prospective trials but need to be further monitored.
Given its low cost and extensive clinical experience, allopurinol will likely remain the first-line drug for management of hyperuricemia and gout. Febuxostat may provide an important option in patients unable to use allopurinol, those with very high serum urate levels, or in the presence of refractory tophi.