Azathioprine is a medication prescribed to prevent organ rejection in individuals who have undergone kidney transplant surgery. It is typically used in combination with other drugs to facilitate normal kidney function. Azathioprine is also utilized in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition where the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints.
Azathioprine belongs to the immunosuppressant class of drugs, which function by weakening the immune system. This mechanism helps the body to accept the new kidney as if it were native to the body, in the case of an organ transplant. In rheumatoid arthritis patients, azathioprine is employed to prevent further joint damage.
Uses and Dosage
Azathioprine is administered orally in the form of tablets. It is typically taken once or twice daily after meals.
Consistency is key when taking azathioprine, so it is advisable to take it at the same time every day. Follow the instructions on your prescription label carefully. Take azathioprine exactly as directed, without taking more or less than the prescribed dosage or increasing the frequency.
If you are using azathioprine to treat rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may initiate treatment with a low dose and increase it gradually after 6-8 weeks, but not more than once every 4 weeks. When your condition is under control, your doctor may gradually reduce your dosage.
For preventing kidney transplant rejection, your doctor may prescribe a higher dose at the start, which can then be gradually decreased as your body adapts to the transplant.
While azathioprine is effective in managing rheumatoid arthritis, it does not cure the condition. It may take up to 12 weeks before experiencing the full benefits of azathioprine.
Azathioprine only prevents transplant rejection as long as it is taken. Continue taking this medication even when feeling well. Discontinuing azathioprine without consulting your doctor is not recommended.
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention:
- hair loss
Inform your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any serious side effects:
- feeling dizzy or faint when rising from a sitting or lying position
- feeling tired, dizzy, or generally unwell
- fever or chills
- new marks or change in marks on your skin
- signs of clotting problems
- signs of infection (symptoms may include fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness)
- symptoms of a lung infection
- symptoms of a urinary tract infection
Before taking azathioprine, inform your doctor or pharmacist of any allergies you have, especially to azathioprine, mercaptopurine, or any other inactive ingredient that may cause an allergic reaction.
If you have a medical history, particularly kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, or certain enzyme disorders such as TPMT deficiency or NUDT15 deficiency, inform your doctor or pharmacist before taking azathioprine.
Using azathioprine may increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Limit exposure to the sun, avoid tanning beds and sunlamps, wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen when outdoors. Your doctor may advise you to avoid phototherapy while using this medication.
Azathioprine may increase your chances of contracting infections or worsen existing infections. Avoid contact with individuals who have infections that may spread to others, such as chickenpox, measles, or flu. Consult your doctor if you have been exposed to an infection or need more information.
Inform your healthcare provider that you are using azathioprine before receiving any immunizations or vaccinations. Additionally, avoid contact with individuals who have recently received live vaccines, such as the flu vaccine inhaled through the nose.
To minimize the risk of getting cut, bruised, or injured, exercise caution when using sharp objects such as razors or nail cutters, and to avoid engaging in activities such as contact sports.
Azathioprine can be absorbed through the skin and lungs and may be harmful to an unborn baby. Pregnant women or those who may become pregnant should not handle the medication or breathe dust from the tablets.
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, inform your doctor, as azathioprine may harm an unborn baby. You should not become pregnant while using this medication, and you should ask your doctor about reliable forms of birth control while taking this medication. In case of pregnancy, consult your doctor immediately.
This medication passes into breast milk and may have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding while using azathioprine.
Form and Strength
Imuran is available in the following forms and strengths:
How long does it take for Imuran to help with arthritis?
It can take up to 8-12 weeks after you start taking Imuran for you to see improvement in your arthritis. Blood work will have to be done every 4-8 weeks to monitor your blood counts.
What is it important not to do while taking Imuran?
Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections while you are using this medicine.