Top 3 Differences Between Uloric & Allopurinol Gout Drugs:
Uloric patients had a 34% higher risk of cardiovascular death and 22% higher risk of death from any cause versus those taking allopurinol.
Uloric is only recommended for patients who cannot take allopurinol for any reason.
Uloric may be more effective at decreasing uric acid levels than allopurinol.
Allopurinol was FDA approved for the treatment of hyperuricemia (uric acid buildup) in 1966, but only three other drugs have received approval for the same indication since then. Uloric (febuxostat) was the most recent addition to this class of gout prescription, but it quickly generated controversy. According to several lawsuits and manufacturer Takeda’s own clinical trial data, patients who use Uloric may have a substantially higher risk of serious cardiovascular events and even death.
Millions of Americans take Uloric or allopurinol on a daily basis. These patients may be confused about the safety and efficacy of their gout treatments. In an effort to dispel some of that confusion, we’ve put together this quick comparison to highlight the differences and similarities between Uloric and allopurinol.
What are the symptoms of gout? Redness, pain and swelling of the joints, often starting with the big toe
What causes gout? Uric acid accumulation (often referred to as high serum urate levels) and crystallization
How is gout treated?
Anti-inflammatory drugs like colchicine (colcrys), corticosteroids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
Urate-lowering therapies (aka xanthine oxidase inhibitors) like allopurinol (Zyloprim), febuxostat (Uloric), pegloticase (Krystexxa), and probenecid
Uloric and Allopurinol Similarities
Uloric and allopurinol both reduce gout flares by decreasing the amount of uric acid in your blood. They do this by blocking the function of xanthine oxidase, an enzyme that makes uric acid.
Aside from their general purpose, Uloric and allopurinol also share the following qualities:
Available in two dosages
Taken daily in tablet form
Associated with a long list of side effects ranging from minor to life-threatening
Not recommended for patients who do not show symptoms of gout
Require a lower dose for patients with kidney failure
Often cause increased gout flares immediately after starting the drug
Associated with severe skin rashes
Interact or cannot be used with azathioprine, an anti-rejection drug, and mercaptopurine, a cancer drug
Unknown effects on infants
Uloric Has More Side Effects Than Allopurinol
Allopurinol has been used for over 50 years, and its side effects and efficacy are very well established. Uloric is much newer, having received FDA approval only ten years ago. Even so, the types and number of side effects known for Uloric significantly outnumber those of allopurinol. You can explore those differences in the table below.
Please note: the table below is not a comprehensive listing of Uloric and allopurinol side effects.
Uloric vs Allopurinol Side Effects
Necrotizing angitis (severe blood vessel inflammation that decreases or prevents blood flow to tissue, causing the affected tissue to die)
Bone marrow lesion
Ringing in the ears
Temporary loss of blood flow to certain brain structures
Guillain-Barré syndrome (nerve damage caused by your own immune system)
Allopurinol Indications: for the treatment of gout, management of elevated uric acid levels caused by cancer therapy, and management of elevated uric acid levels in patients with recurrent kidney stones
Uloric Indications: for the chronic management of elevated uric acid levels (gout) in adults who cannot use allopurinol
Uloric May Be More Effective Than Allopurinol
Though both drugs decrease uric acid levels, one study indicates that Uloric may be more effective in that endeavor. According to researchers, 56.9% of Uloric users achieved satisfactory depression of uric acid levels versus only 44.8% of allopurinol users.
Uloric Is Deadlier Than Allopurinol
A 2018 study with an average of 2.6 years follow-up investigated the safety of febuxostat (Uloric) and allopurinol in gout patients with existing cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that Uloric was “non-inferior to allopurinol” when examining the time to first occurrence of a major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE). They included:
nonfatal myocardial infarction (heart attack)
unstable angina (decreased blood flow to the heart) with urgent coronary revascularization
Despite this seeming similarity, the two drugs differed sharply in terms of how many patients died during the study. Patients in the febuxostat group were more likely to suffer either cardiovascular death (1.34x) or all-cause death (1.22x) than those in the allopurinol group. In total, 243 out of 3098 febuxostat patients and 199 out of 3092 allopurinol patients died during the course of the study. As a result, Uloric is only recommended for patients for whom allopurinol is ineffective.
As of July 2019, a 30 tablet prescription for the lowest dose of Uloric costs around $350 without health insurance. In comparison, allopurinol is incredibly affordable at an average price of $33 for 30 tablets of the lowest available dose, also without health insurance.
Uloric Shortcomings and Legal Troubles
Uloric was initially celebrated as an advancement in gout treatment, but that sentiment shifted when the drug gained a black box warning in early 2018. Uloric has since been relegated to second-line treatment status, only prescribed to patients for whom allopurinol has failed. This forces such patients to choose between living with the higher risks of Uloric or the debilitating symptoms of unmanaged gout.
In addition to depriving gout patients of a much-needed treatment option, Uloric’s lack of cardiovascular safety has given its manufacturer a plethora of legal troubles. Law firms nationwide have filed lawsuits against Takeda Pharmaceuticals claiming they failed to warn patients of Uloric’s increased risk of death. If you or a loved one suffered a major cardiac event while taking Uloric, you should get a free consultation from our lawyers today.