Other immunomodulatory treatments should be avoided due to the potential for additive immunosuppressant effects, or in the case of immunostimulants like echinacea or astragalus, reduced therapeutic effects. Likewise live vaccines (like haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine and yellow fever vaccines) should be avoided due to the potential for severe infection due to the immunosuppressive nature of the treatment.
The concomitant use of methotrexate, in particular, may lead to severe or even fatal liver-damage or hepatotoxicity. Seventy-five percent of all cases of severe liver damage reported until early 2001 were seen under combined drug therapy leflunomide plus methotrexate. However, some studies have shown that the combination of methotrexate and leflunomide in patients with rheumatoid arthritis gave better results than either drug alone.
Mechanism of action
Leflunomide is an immunomodulatory drug that achieves its effects by inhibiting the mitochondrial enzyme dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (an enzyme involved in de novo pyrimidine synthesis) (abbreviation DHODH), which plays a key role in the de novo (from scratch) synthesis of the uridine monophosphate (rUMP), which is required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA, hence leflunomide inhibits the reproduction of rapidly dividing cells, especially lymphocytes. The inhibition of human DHODH by teriflunomide, the active metabolite of leflunomide, occurs at levels (approximately 600 nM) that are achieved during treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Teriflunomide also inhibits several tyrosine kinases. Teriflunomide prevents the expansion of activated and autoimmune lymphocytes by interfering with their cell cycle progression while nonlymphoid cells are able to use another pathway to make their ribonucleotides by use of salvage pyrimidine pathway, which makes them less dependent on de novo synthesis. Teriflunomide also has antiviral effects against numerous viruses including CMV, HSV1 and the BK virus, which it achieves by inhibiting viral replication by interfering with nucleocapsid tegumentation and hence virion assembly.
^Pirildar, T (May 2003). "Treatment of adult-onset Still's disease with leflunomide and chloroquine combination in two patients.". Clinical Rheumatology22 (2): 157. doi:10.1007/s10067-002-0667-0. PMID12740686.
^ abLee, S.; Park, Y.; Park, J.; Kang, Y.; Nam, E.; Kim, S.; Lee, J.; Yoo, W.; Lee, S. (2009). "Combination treatment with leflunomide and methotrexate for patients with active rheumatoid arthritis". Scandinavian journal of rheumatology38 (1): 11–14. doi:10.1080/03009740802360632. PMID19191187.edit