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Man given wrong drug had rare deficiency

AAP logoAAP 13/10/2016

A 41-year-old Perth man who died less than a month after being given a strong drug for a painful bowel disease had a rare deficiency that prevented his body from breaking it down, suppressing white blood cells so it couldn't fight infection.

After suffering abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea in February last year, Jared Olsen was tested at Fiona Stanley Hospital and diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease, an inquest in the WA Coroner's Court heard on Thursday.

He began taking intravenous steroids, which helped, but are not a preferred long-term treatment, so he was given 6-mercaptopurine (6MP), which is often used to treat leukaemia.

But he had inherited inactive TPMT genes on both chromosomes, which usually provide the body with instructions for making an enzyme called thiopurine methyltansferase.

That meant he was not able to break down the 6MP, which became toxic and suppressed his white blood cells, UWA professor of medicine and pharmacology David Joyce told the WA Coroner's Court on Thursday.

This meant he couldn't fight a bacteria normally encountered every day and he developed sepsis.

Professor Joyce said one in 300 people had the type of TPMT deficiency Mr Olsen had.

Prof Joyce also told the court pills that were seen in his system during a CT scan could have been iron tablets to treat anaemia caused by the Crohn's, which in overdose could be lethal and may have contributed to his death.

The coroner will hand down her findings at a later date.

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