|ATC code||J04BA01 (WHO)|
|Biological half-life||70 days|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Molar mass||473.396 g/mol|
|3D model (Jmol)||Interactive image|
|(what is this?)|
Clofazimine is a fat-soluble iminophenazine dye used in combination with rifampicin and dapsone as multidrug therapy (MDT) for the treatment of leprosy. It has been used investigationally in combination with other antimycobacterial drugs to treat Mycobacterium avium infections in AIDS patients and Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis infection in Crohn's disease patients. Clofazimine also has a marked anti-inflammatory effect and is given to control the leprosy reaction, erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL). (From AMA Drug Evaluations Annual, 1993, p1619). The drug is given as an alternative to patients who can not tolerate the effects of dapsone for tuberculosis.
It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.
Clofazimine produces pink to brownish skin pigmentation in 75-100% of patients within a few weeks, as well as similar discoloration of most bodily fluids and secretions. These discolorations are reversible but may take months to years to disappear. There is evidence in medical literature that as a result of clofazimine administration, several patients have developed depression which in some cases resulted in suicide. It has been hypothesized that the depression was a result of this chronic skin discoloration.
Cases of icthyosis and skin dryness are also reported in response to this drug (8%-28%), as well as rash and itchiness (1-5%).
40-50% of patients develop gastrointestinal intolerance. Rarely, patients have died from bowel obstructions and intestinal bleeding, or required abdominal surgery to correct the same problem.
Clofazimine works by binding to the guanine bases of bacterial DNA, thereby blocking the template function of the DNA and inhibiting bacterial proliferation. It also increases activity of bacterial phospholipase A2, leading to release and accumulation of lysophospholipids, which are toxic and inhibit bacterial proliferation.
Clofazimine has a biological half life of about 70 days. Autopsies performed on those who have died while on clofazimine show crystal-like aggregates in the intestinal mucosa, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes.
The immunosuppressive effects of clofazimine were immediately noticed when applied in animal model. Macrophages were first reported to be inhibited due to the stabilization of lysosomal membrane by clofazimine. Clofazimine also showed a dosage-dependent inhibition of neutrophil motility, lymphocyte transformation, mitogen-induced PBMC proliferation and complement-mediated solubilization of pre-formed immune complexes in vitro. A mechanistic studying of clofazimine in human T cells revealed that this drug is a Kv1.3 (KCNA3) channel blocker. This indicates that clofazimine will be potentially used for treatment of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. Because the Kv1.3-high effector memory T cells (TEM) are actively involved in the development of these diseases, and Kv1.3 activity is essential for stimulation and proliferation of TEM by regulating calcium influx in the T cells. Several clinical trials were also conducted looking for its immunosuppressive activity even before it was approved for leprosy by FDA. It was first reported to be effective in treating chronic discoid lupus erythematosus with 17 out of 26 patients got remission. But later another group found it was ineffective in treating diffuse, photosensitive, systemic lupus erythematosus. Clofazimine also has been sporadically reported with some success in other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, Miescher’s granulomatous cheilitis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A recent clinical study of clofazimine was done in post-bone marrow transplantation patients with over 50% of them having skin involvement, flexion contractures or oral manifestations achieved complete or partial responses. 7 out of 22 patients were able to reduce other immunosuppressants such as cyclosporine A.
Clofazimine, initially known as B663, was first synthesised in 1954 by a team of scientists at Trinity College, Dublin: Frank Winder, J.G. Belton, Stanley McElhinney, M.L. Conalty, Seán O'Sullivan, and Dermot Twomey, led by Vincent Barry. Clofazimine was originally intended as an anti-tuberculosis drug but drug proved ineffective. In 1959, a researcher named Y. T. Chang identified its effectiveness against leprosy. After clinical trials in Nigeria and elsewhere during the 1960s, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis launched the product in 1969 under the brand name Lamprene.
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- Official FDA Drug Label
- RxList Clofazimine (most information taken from FDA)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Drug Information Portal - Clofazimine