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PANCREATIC ENZYME SUPPLEMENTS
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is most commonly caused by cystic fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, or pancreatic resection. When secretion of pancreatic enzymes falls below 10% of normal, fat and protein digestion is impaired and can lead to steatorrhea, azotor-rhea, vitamin malabsorption, and weight loss. Pancreatic enzyme supplements, which contain a mixture of amylase, lipase, and proteases, are the mainstay of treatment for pancreatic enzyme insufficiency. Two major types of preparations in use are pancre-atin and pancrelipase. Pancreatin is an alcohol-derived extract ofhog pancreas with relatively low concentrations of lipase and pro-teolytic enzymes, whereas pancrelipase is an enriched preparation. On a per-weight basis, pancrelipase has approximately 12 times the lipolytic activity and more than 4 times the proteolytic activity of pancreatin. Consequently, pancreatin is no longer in common clinical use. Only pancrelipase is discussed here.
Pancrelipase is available worldwide in both non-enteric-coated and enteric-coated preparations. Formulations are available in sizes containing varying amounts of lipase, amylase, and protease. However, manufacturers’ listings of enzyme content do not always reflect true enzymatic activity. Pancrelipase enzymes are rapidly and permanently inactivated by gastric acids. Therefore, non-enteric-coated preparations (eg, Viokase tablets or powder) should be given concomitantly with acid suppression therapy (protonpump inhibitor or H2 antagonist) to reduce acid-mediated destruction within the stomach. Enteric-coated formulations are more commonly used because they do not require concomitant acid suppression therapy. In 2006, the FDA announced that all products must undergo an approval process to demonstrate prod-uct quality, safety, and efficacy. At present, three formulations (all enteric-coated capsules) are approved for use (Creon, Pancreaze, Zenpep).
Pancrelipase preparations are administered with each meal and snack. Enzyme activity may be listed in international units (IU) or USP units. One IU is equal to 2–3 USP units. Dosing should be individualized according to the age and weight of the patient, the degree of pancreatic insufficiency, and the amount of dietary fat intake. Therapy is initiated at a dose that provides 60,000–90,000 USP units (20–30,000 IU) of lipase activity in the prandial and postprandial period—a level that is sufficient to reduce steatorrhea to a clinically insignificant level in most cases. Suboptimal response to enteric-coated formulations may be due to poor mix-ing of granules with food or slow dissolution and release of enzymes. Gradual increase of dose, change to a different formula-tion, or addition of acid suppression therapy may improve response. For patients with feeding tubes, microspheres may be mixed with enteral feeding prior to administration.
Pancreatic enzyme supplements are well tolerated. The capsules should be swallowed, not chewed, because pancreatic enzymes may cause oropharyngeal mucositis. Excessive doses may cause diarrhea and abdominal pain. The high purine content of pancreas extracts may lead to hyperuricosuria and renal stones. Several cases of colonic strictures were reported in patients with cystic fibrosis who received high doses of pancrelipase with high lipase activity. These high-dose formulations have since been removed from the market.
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