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What Is Febuxostat?

By Drue Tibbits
Updated May 17, 2024
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Febuxostat is a medicine used to control uric acid in patients with gout. It is a xanthine oxidase inhibitor, a type of drug that limits the body’s production of uric acid. Gout is a type of arthritis associated with hyperuricemia, or excess uric acid. The acid accumulates in joints, causing sudden attacks of pain and swelling. This medicine does not treat or stop an attack in progress but lessens the number of future attacks.

Excess uric acid is not a problem for most people. In some patients, however, the uric acid forms into crystals that deposit in the soft tissues of joints. These crystals not only cause pain, but they can eventually damage the joints. This condition is more common in men than in women and is often felt in the big toe. Febuxostat does not eliminate uric acid already present in the body but stops the body from making the excess acid that is responsible for gout.

The medication is available in pill form. It is usually taken once a day. A doctor performs blood tests, prior to beginning febuxostat therapy, to determine the level of uric acid in the blood. This helps determine the medication dosage. The doctor may change the dosage during the first months of treatment if follow-up blood tests do not indicate the uric acid level is not dropping as expected.

It can take several months for febuxostat to reach full effectiveness. During this period of initial treatment, it is not unusual for patients to experience more gout attacks than normal. This is a common reaction, and fewer gout attacks will occur once the patient has been on the medication continually for a period of time.

Patients who take azathioprine or mercaptopurine should not take febuxostat. It is only for patients with both hyperuricemia and gout and not for those with only hyperuricemia. This medicine has not been studied for safety in patients under 18 years old, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. The most common side effects of this medication are nausea, joint pain, and rash. There are several serious side effects, and febuxostat should only be taken while under a doctor’s supervision.

Serious side effects are not common. The drug therapy can cause blood and lymphatic system disorders, including anemia and plenomegaly. There is a risk of cardiac disorders, such as palpitations and tachycardia. Other serious side effects include blurred vision, deafness, and shortness of breath. Patients should report any unusual or bothersome side effects to their doctors immediately.

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