The need to consider using dapsone in pregnant women for its antimalarial activity is becoming greater in areas where Plasmodium falciparum resistance to chloroquine and pyrimethamine-sulfadoxine is rapidly increasing. Dapsone in combination with other antimalarials might provide a valuable alternative for both treatment and prophylaxis. This review assesses the clinical pharmacology of dapsone and its adverse drug reactions in relation to haemolysis, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, blood dyscrasias and methaemoglobinaemia. Studies are summarised reporting its use in leprosy, dermatological and other conditions, and malaria, in relation to maternal and infant outcomes. A total of 924 pregnancies were identified during which dapsone therapy was taken. Only limited data are available and this precludes a meaningful quantitative benefit-risk analysis.
Mild degrees of haemolysis consistently occur with continued therapy, although adverse effects may be less likely with intermittent treatment, as most reported adverse effects have occurred with long-term use of dapsone. There are a number of gaps in knowledge where more data are needed. These include no data on pharmacokinetics in pregnancy and whether these are altered with co-administration of chlorproguanil. Potential complications in women with severe anaemia are unknown and there is no information on haemolytic effects in women or the fetus with G6PD deficiency. The use of dapsone in HIV-infected women in malarious areas could carry increased risks because of the immunosuppressive actions of the drug. Trials of dapsone therapy in pregnancy should be considered in malarious areas where there is good reason for its deployment. Controlled trials have provided data on maternal tolerance, and dapsone in combination with other antimalarial drugs can offer clear benefit in terms of improved birthweight. The use of dapsone combinations should be considered when no good alternative is available and the threat of malaria is the greater risk.
Brabin, B.J.; Eggelte, T.A.; Parise, M.; Verhoeff, F. Dapsone Therapy for Malaria During Pregnancy: Maternal and Fetal Outcomes. Drug Safety (2004) 27 (9) 633-648.