What is Allopurinol?
Allopurinol is generic prescription-only medication and may be marketed under the popular brand names, Zyloprim and Aloprim.
This drug reduces the body’s uric acid production by inhibiting the xanthine oxidase enzyme. Allopurinol is effective for treating conditions associated with unusually high uric acid levels in the body. Zyloprim comes in tablet form and is taken orally. It is available in doses of 100 mg of allopurinol and 400 mg of allopurinol. It may also come in powdered form for use in injections.
Although, Allopurinol is now available as a generic, it is still manufactured with a brand name by various companies: GlaxoSmithKline produces it as Zyloric®, and other brand names including Allohexal®, Allosig®, Caplenal®, Milurit®, Alloril®, Progout®, Zyloprim®, Zyric®, Alluron®, Cosuric® and Rimapurinol®.
Allopurinol is most commonly used for the treatment of gout. Gout is directly caused by high levels of uric acid in the body which will crystallize around the joints causing serious pain. Allopurinol (Zyloprim) can effectively prevent episodes of gout by controlling uric acid production. Allopurinol is not as effective at treating an existing gout attack.
Other conditions that can be treated by Zyloprim or allopurinol medications include kidney stones and high uric acid levels from cancer treatments. This medication may be used for children with cancer. Off-label uses of allopurinol medications include the treatment of prostatitis, leishmaniasis and mouth sores caused by chemotherapy treatments.
How does Allopurinol Work?
Uric acid is a chemical in the blood and if a person has too much of it in their bloodstream, than they can develop certain medical conditions, namely gout and certain types of kidney stones. Levels of uric acid vary from person to person due to various factors, for example genetics, eating a diet high in meat and fish (which increases uric acid levels), and alcohol consumption (which increases uric acid levels).
Allopurinol is a type of medicine called a xanthine oxidase inhibitor. Allopurinol reduces the production of uric acid, and by doing so, reduces the chance that a person will suffer from gout or renal stones. This medication is given to people who have had previous attacks of gout or renal stones to prevent them from having attacks of these conditions again. It does not treat attacks of gout or renal stones, it prevents them from occurring.
An excess of uric acid in the bloodstream can also occur as a complication of cancer chemotherapy, and allopurinol can be used to treat this.
Tips and Precautions when using Allopurinol
When you start using allopurinol, your doctor may do the following:
- Start treatment with another medication for a few months. This will either be a medication called colchicine, or a medication from a class of drugs called NSAIDs (examples include ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac). This is because as allopurinol begins to work it temporarily increases the risk of attacks of gout developing, and the NSAID or colchicine will help to prevent and treat these.
- Do regular blood tests to measure your blood uric acid levels. This is to see whether the levels of uric acid are going down with the allopurinol treatment, and by how much. By doing this the dose of the medication can be optimised.
- Advise you to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, as dehydration makes you prone to attacks of gout and renal stones.
You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or planning to become pregnant, as your treatment may have to be altered. You should also let your doctor known if you have any problems with your liver or kidneys, as this can affect the dose of allopurinol that you should be given.
Allopurinol can suppress your immune system, so you should try to avoid people with coughs and colds.
In addition to taking allopurinol to help prevent gout and renal stones, these lifestyle measures may also help:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce your intake of meat and seafood
- Drink only a moderate amount of alcohol
Your physician can provide you with help, advice and referrals to allow you to achieve these goals.