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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 18 (2011), Issue 4, Pages 225-229
Original Article

Therapeutic Drug Monitoring in the Treatment of Active Tuberculosis

Aylin Babalik,1 Sharyn Mannix,2 Denis Francis,2 and Dick Menzies1

1Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit, Montreal Chest Institute, McGill University, Canada
2Montreal Chest Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Copyright © 2011 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Therapeutic drug monitoring ensures optimal dosing while aiming to reduce toxicity. However, due to the high costs and complexity of testing, therapeutic drug monitoring is not routinely used in the treatment of individuals with active tuberculosis, despite the efficacy demonstrated in several randomized trials. This study reviewed data spanning five years regarding the frequency of finding low drug levels in patients with tuberculosis, the dosing adjustments that were required to achieve adequate levels and the factors associated with low drug levels.

BACKGROUND: Therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) is used to optimize dosing that maximizes therapeutic benefit while minimizing toxicity. In the treatment of active tuberculosis (TB), TDM is not routine, yet low levels of anti-TB drugs can be associated with poorer treatment outcomes.

METHODS: In a retrospective case control study, patients with active TB in whom TDM was performed were considered cases and compared with controls who did not undergo TDM, and matched according to year of diagnosis and the results of direct smear microscopy. Medical records were reviewed to abstract demographic, clinical, radiographic and microbiological data including time until smear and culture conversion.

RESULTS: In total, 20 patients were identified in whom TDM was performed, of whom 17 (87%) had at least one low drug concentration. Overall, 27 of 45 (60%) initial drug concentrations were low and resulted in an increased drug dosage. Low drug levels were found in 13 of 15 (87%) isoniazid, four of five (80%) rifabutin and eight of 12 (67%) rifampin measurements, but in only two of 13 (15%) pyrazinamide measurements. Within cases only, the 17 patients with low serum drug levels were significantly more likely to have comorbid illnesses, be smear positive, have lower serum albumin levels and had nonsignificantly longer time to culture conversion, compared with the three cases in whom all drug levels were within therapeutic ranges.

CONCLUSIONS: TB drug levels were frequently below clinically acceptable levels in patients with active TB, particularly in those with HIV infection or other comorbidities. TDM is potentially useful for the treatment of active TB, but is currently underused.