Arthrotec is a new product that combines the NSAID diclofenac and the prostaglandin analog misoprostol. The diclofenac component of Arthrotec is responsible for the relief of the symptoms of arthritis. The misoprostol component is responsible for the mucoprotective properties. Arthrotec has the dual purpose of relieving the signs and symptoms of arthritis and protecting patients from the development of gastric and duodenal ulcers.
It is available in two strengths. One formulation (Arthrotec 50) contains 50 mg of diclofenac and 200 mcg of misoprostol while the other (Arthrotec 75) contains 75 mg of diclofenac and 200 mcg of misoprostol. The usual dose of Arthrotec in the management of osteoarthritis is 50 TID and for rheumatoid arthritis is 50 TID or QID; BID dosing can be used.
How it works:
- Diclofenac sodium is an NSAID that exhibits classical anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, as well as analgesic properties. As with other NSAIDs, its exact mechanism is not completely understood but it is believed that diclofenac, like other NSAIDs, works in part by inhibiting prostaglandin synthetase.
- Misoprostol is a synthetic prostaglandin E1 analog. In animals, misoprostol inhibits gastric acid secretion and promotes mucosal protective properties. Misoprostol can increase bicarbonate and mucus production and decrease the secretion of gastric acid. The exact reason for protection against ulcers has not be determined.
- Diclofenac is completely absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract following oral administration. The diclofenac portion of Arthrotec is stable in the acidic environment of the stomach. However, it is rapidly released from the formulation once it enters the more basic environment of the duodenum. Peak plasma levels of this portion are reached in about 2 hours. Because of the extensive first pass effect, only 50% of the dose is available for absorption. The diclofenac portion of Arthrotec is metabolized by the liver and cleared by the urine (65%) and the biliary route (35%).
- Misoprostol is rapidly absorbed following oral administration, but must undergo metabolic activation into misoprostol acid before it can exerts it pharmacologic actions. The misoprostol acid that is present in Arthrotec reaches peak plasma levels in about 20 minutes and is rapidly eliminated with an approximate half-life of 30 minutes.
Arthrotec follows similar pharmacokinetic parameters as the individual components. The amount of absorption of the two components from the preparation of Arthrotec is comparable to the amount of absorption of the two individual components separately. Importantly, food tends to decrease the bioavailability of the two components of Arthrotec. The pharmacokinetic profile of the diclofenac component in Arthrotec is unchanged in elderly patients and in patients who are renally and hepatically challenged. The pharmacokinetics of misoprostol is influenced by age as well as renal and hepatic impairment; the levels of misoprostol in these individual may double. Hence, it is necessary to adjust the dose in elderly patients and in patients who have renal and hepatic problems.
Clinical studies have shown that diclofenac alone, or in combination with misoprostol, is effective in the treatment of the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. When given alone, misoprostol has been shown to reduce the occurrence of gastric and duodenal ulcers in patients who were receiving a variety of NSAIDs for the management of arthritic conditions. When Arthrotec was compared to diclofenac alone in patients who had osteoarthritis, the incidence of drug-induced ulcers was lower in patients who were receiving Arthrotec than those who were receiving diclofenac. Even though the incidence of gastric and duodenal ulcers was lower with Arthrotec, only the incidence of gastric ulcers was significantly lower in patients who were receiving Arthrotec than those who were receiving diclofenac.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea are among the most common side effects with Arthrotec. Diarrhea may be reduced if this medication is taken with meals. Most adverse effects that occur with misoprostol are mild to moderate and generally resolve following a few days of treatment.
Instructions for the Patient
Arthrotec should not be given to patients who are allergic to aspirin, who have pre-existing asthma, and who have severe renal failure. It should not be given to patients who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant because it is believed the misoprostol component can cause fetal death.
Patients should also be advised to swallow Arthrotec whole; they should not chew, crush or dissolve this medication. In addition, patients should be advised to report any signs and symptoms of liver failure (jaundice, itching, nausea) to their physician.