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Cimetidine and Acute Intermittent Porphyria

Jose Halabe Cherem, MD; Jose Malagon, MD; and Haiko Nellen, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From Hospital de Especialidades, Centro Médico Nacional Siglio XXI IMSS, 06720 Mexico D.F.


Potential Financial Conflict of Interest: None disclosed.


Ann Intern Med. 2005;143(9):694-695. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-143-9-200511010-00023
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Cimetidine and acute intermittent porphyria
Posted on November 4, 2005
Gabriele Rossi
University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

In the interesting report "Cimetidine and Acute Intermittent Porphyria", Cherem and colleagues, demonstrating the effectiveness of cimetidine for the treatment of acute porphyric crisis and for the long- term prophylaxis, point out the need to conduct larger studies to confirm these encouraging results. (1) However, attention should be paid for those patients suffering from an acute neurological porphyric attack (50-55% of the total attacks) characterized by the presence of psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, agitation, hallucinations, delirium, confusion and psychosis. (2) Indeed, it is known that histamine-2 receptor (H2) blockers, and in particular cimetidine, may be associated with the development of the same neurological side effects (3), and, therefore, can possibly contribute to exacerbate and worsen the clinical situation. Moreover, several reports have documented an association between the chronic use of cimetidine and the rising of a depressive syndrome (4), which can represent a long-term complication of acute intermittent porphyria and a major risk factor for suicide, one of the most important and frequent cause of death seen in this disease. (2,5)

1) Cherem JH, Malagon J, Nellen H. Cimetidine and acute intermittent Porphyria [Letter]. Ann Intern Med. 2005;143:694-5. [PMID:16263899]

2) Anderson KE, Bloomer JR, Bonkovsky HL, Kushner JP, Pierach CA, Pimstone NR, et al. Recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of the acute porphyrias. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142:439-50. [PMID: 15767622]

3) Cantu TG, Korek JS. Central nervous system reactions to histamine- 2 receptor blockers. Ann Intern Med. 1991;114:1027-34. [PMID: 1674198]

4) Petite JP, Bloch F. Depressive syndrome during cimetidine treatment [Letter]. Nouv Presse Med. 1979;8:1260. [PMID: 440948]

5) Jeans JB, Savik K, Gross CR, Weimer MK, Bossenmaier IC, Pierach CA, et al. Mortality in patients with acute intermittent porphyria requiring hospitalization: a United States case series. Am J Med Genet. 1996;65:269- 73. [PMID: 8923933]

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None declared

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