Universal premedication and therapeutic drug monitoring for asparaginase-based therapy prevents infusion-associated acute adverse events and drug substitutions

Stacy Cooper, David J. Young, Caitlin J. Bowen, Nicole M. Arwood, Sarah G. Poggi, Patrick A Brown

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Background: Asparaginase is a critical component of lymphoblastic leukemia therapy, with intravenous pegaspargase (PEG) as the current standard product. Acute adverse events (aAEs) during PEG infusion are difficult to interpret, representing a mix of drug-inactivating hypersensitivity and noninactivating reactions. Asparaginase Erwinia chrysanthemi (ERW) is approved for PEG hypersensitivity, but is less convenient, more expensive, and yields lower serum asparaginase activity (SAA). We began a policy of universal premedication and SAA testing for PEG, hypothesizing this would reduce aAEs and unnecessary drug substitutions. Procedure: Retrospective chart review of patients receiving asparaginase before and after universal premedication before PEG was conducted, with SAA performed 1 week later. We excluded patients who had nonallergic asparaginase AEs. Primary end point was substitution to ERW. Secondary end points included aAEs, SAA testing, and cost. Results: We substituted to ERW in 21 of 122 (17.2%) patients pre-policy, and 5 of 68 (7.4%) post-policy (RR, 0.427; 95% CI, 0.27–0.69, P = 0.028). All completed doses of PEG yielded excellent SAA (mean, 0.90 units/mL), compared with ERW (mean, 0.15 units/mL). PEG inactivation post-policy was seen in 2 of 68 (2.9%), one silent and one with breakthrough aAE. The rate of aAEs pre/post-policy was 17.2% versus 5.9% (RR, 0.342; 95% CI, 0.20–0.58, P = 0.017). Grade 4 aAE rate pre/post-policy was 15% versus 0%. Cost analysis predicts $125 779 drug savings alone per substitution prevented ($12 402/premedicated patient). Conclusions: Universal premedication reduced substitutions to ERW and aAE rate. SAA testing demonstrated low rates of silent inactivation, and higher SAA for PEG. A substantial savings was achieved. We propose universal premedication for PEG be standard of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27797
JournalPediatric Blood and Cancer
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • asparaginase
  • leukemia
  • premedication
  • therapeutic drug monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Hematology
  • Oncology

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