Azathioprine belongs to a class of medicines called disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). DMARDs reduce symptoms and slow down the progress of certain autoimmune diseases (disease where the body's natural defence system attacks own body cells). In the long term, it reduces permanent damage to the organs such as intestine, joints and kidney. It may be used on its own or in combination with other DMARDs or biologic agents.
Side effects may occur when taking Azathioprine, but the majority of these effects tend to resolve spontaneously. Common side effects include:
Consult your doctor or pharmacist about any symptoms that becomes bothersome.
Azathioprine should be taken as prescribed by the doctor. It is usually given orally after food once daily, taken at the same time daily.
A typical adult dose ranges from 50 milligrams to 150 milligrams daily depending on the patient's response and tolerability to the medicine. For children, the dose is usually calculated based on body weight or body surface area. Your doctor may reduce the dose if you have kidney problem.
Avoid raw (e.g. sashimi) or half-cooked foods (e.g. half-boiled eggs) to prevent food poisoning.
Azathioprine may interact with other medicine or supplement that you are taking. Inform the doctor, pharmacist or specialty nurse (such as dermatology, gastroenterology or rheumatology) before starting any medicines and supplements. Medicines such as Febuxostat should not be taken together with Azathioprine as they might increase the chance of you experiencing severe side effects. On the other hand, supplement such as Echinacea may reduce the benefit of Azathioprine.
Alcohol may interact with Azathioprine and increase the risk of liver toxicity. It should be avoided if possible or kept to minimum amount as suggested by your doctor.
Immunization status should be current before starting the medicine. Do not receive any live vaccine while you are on Azathioprine. Always consult your doctor before going for immunisation.
Azathioprine tablets should be swallowed whole, with a glass of water. The tablets should not be crushed or chewed.
However, for people who are unable to swallow tablets whole, your pharmacist may advise you to soak the tablets in water for a few minutes before grinding them to minimise the inhalation of medicine powder. Talk to your pharmacist for further details if you have difficulty swallowing.
If the dose prescribed requires cutting of the tablet, use a tablet cutter. Do not share the cutter with other people. Wash your hands after handling the tablets.
You may start to see improvement within a few weeks, but it may take up to several months to experience its full benefit.
Take a missed dose as soon as you think about it. If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your normal time.
DO NOT double the dose to make up for the missed dose.
Azathioprine should not be disposed of via wastewater or household waste. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medicines no longer required. These measures will help to protect the environment.You may bring the unused medicines to the pharmacy or clinic for proper disposal.