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Azathioprine is a medication that is classified as an immunosuppressant. Azathioprine is used for suppressing the body's immune system. This medication is used for treating patients that have successfully gone through kidney transplantation. It is also used for treating diseases that require modification of the immune system. Azathioprine is available as a prodrug, which is then converted into the active medication known as mercaptopurine. Azathioprine suppresses the proliferation of B and T lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that defend the human body against foreign materials and infectious diseases. Azathioprine will prevent the body from rejecting a new body organ in organ transplants. For treating autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis this drug works by suppressing the body's immune system and preventing inflammation that is linked to immune reactions. Azathioprine will also slow down damages on the joints triggered by inflammation.
- Organ rejection
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Azathioprine comes in the form of oral tablets. This medication is administered once or two times every day after taking food. The standard Azathioprine dose is as follows:
- The initial dosage to prevent rejection of an organ of 3-5 mg/kg daily administered orally or through IV. The first dose of Azathioprine should be given during transplantation period or 1-3 days before the actual transplantation day.
- The initial dosage is 1.0 mg/kg administered orally or through IV injection given once or twice every day. The dosage can be elevated by 0.5 mg/kg every day. The maximum dose of Azathioprine is 2.5 mg/kg every day.
Azathioprine Side Effects
Azathioprine will trigger side effects when taken. Most patients taking Azathioprine will experience less serious side effects that will wane in a few days. However, if these unwanted effects persist, then seek emergency treatment. Less severe side effects of Azathioprine include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Muscle/joint pain
Serious Azathioprine side effects are:
- Greasy stools
- Bloody vomit
- Dark urine
- Black stools
- Extra fluid or swelling on the abdomen
- Mouth sores
- Painful or difficult swallowing
- Hair loss
- Trouble breathing
- Severe dizziness
- Muscle loss
Azathioprine can chemically combine with other medications. This can affect the functioning and effectiveness of one or both medications. This interaction can also worsen side effects. Some of the medicines that interact with Azathioprine are as follows:
- ACE inhibitors such as benazepril and Lisinopril
- Aminosalicylates like mesalamine, sulfasalazine and olsalazine
- Blood thinners such as enoxaparin, warfarin or heparin
- Drugs that affect the bone marrow, for instance, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.
- Cancer chemotherapy drugs
- Other immunosuppressants like tofacitinib and rituximab