Azathioprine (By mouth)
Prevents your body from rejecting a kidney transplant. Also treats joint pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. This medicine is an immunosuppressant agent that will affect your immune system.
There may be other brand names for this medicine.
When This Medicine Should Not Be Used
You should not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to azathioprine, or if you are pregnant. You should not use this medicine if you have received other medicines for arthritis in the past such as chlorambucil (Leukeran®), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®, Neosar®), or melphalan (Alkeran®).
How to Use This Medicine
- Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Your dose may need to be changed several times in order to find out what works best for you. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to.
- This medicine is sometimes given together with other medicines. If you are using several medicines together, make sure you understand how to take them during the day. Ask your doctor to help you plan a way to remember to take your medicines at the right times.
If a dose is missed:
- If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, use it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then to use the medicine and skip the missed dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.
How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine
- Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
- Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
- Keep all medicine away from children and never share your medicine with anyone.
Drugs and Foods to Avoid
Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.
- Tell your doctor if you are also using allopurinol (Aloprim®, Zyloprim®), cotrimoxazole (Bactrim®, Cotrim®, Septra®), mesalamine (Asacol®, Rowasa®), olsalazine (Dipentum®), ribavirin (Copegus®, Rebetol®), or sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®). Make sure your doctor knows if you are using a blood thinner (such as warfarin, Coumadin®) or certain blood pressure medicines (such as captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, Accupril®, Lotensin®, Lotrel®, Prinivil®, Vasotec®, Zestoretic®, or Zestril®).
- Talk to your doctor before getting flu shots or other vaccines while you are receiving this medicine. Vaccines may not work as well, or they could make you ill while you are using this medicine.
Warnings While Using This Medicine
- Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
- Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease, bowel problems (such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea), blood or bone marrow problems (such as anemia, low white blood cells, or low platelets in the blood), or any type of infection.
- Do not use this medicine if you are also taking mercaptopurine (Purinethol®). Using these medicines together could cause serious unwanted effects.
- This medicine lowers the number of some types of blood cells in your body. Because of this, you may bleed or get infections more easily. To help with these problems, avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Wash your hands often. Stay away from rough sports or other situations where you could be bruised, cut, or injured. Brush and floss your teeth gently. Be careful when using sharp objects, including razors and fingernail clippers.
- This medicine may increase your risk of getting certain types of cancer, especially of the skin, lymph system (lymphoma), or blood (leukemia). Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about this risk.
- Use sunscreen or sunblock lotions with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 on a regular basis when you are outdoors. Wear protective clothing and hats, and stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.
- Check with your doctor right away if you have more than one of these symptoms while you are using this medicine: severe nausea or vomiting; diarrhea; fever; rash; a general feeling of discomfort or illness; muscle or joint pain; lightheadedness or dizziness; or unusual tiredness or weakness. These could be symptoms of a serious reaction to the medicine in your bowel (intestine).
- Your doctor will need to check your blood at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments.
Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine
Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:
- Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
- Dark-colored urine or pale stools.
- Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches.
- Lightheadedness or fainting.
- Severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Shortness of breath or troubled breathing.
- Sores on the skin.
- Unusual bleeding, bruising, or weakness.
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.
If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:
- Hair loss.
- Joint or muscle pain.
- Mild skin rash or itching.
- Sores or white patches on your lips, mouth, or throat.
If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088
- Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013
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This page was last updated: June 18, 2013