In this session, we will be discussing the consumer medication information for azathioprine, trade name ImuranTM.

What it’s for & How to take

Azathioprine suppresses your immune system response. This medication is used, along with other medications, to help prevent kidney transplant rejection in patients who have undergone kidney transplant surgery. Azathioprine is also used, usually in combination with other medications, to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a potentially debilitating condition in which the body attacks the healthy tissue around joints, causing pain, swelling, and loss of function. Azathioprine works by weakening your immune system which will help decrease inflammation and slow the progress of the condition. This medication may help increase movement and improve the physical activity of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

Azathioprine is sometimes used to treat other conditions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you are prescribed this medication to treat something that is not listed here.

This medication is usually taken once or twice daily or as directed by your doctor. Azathioprine may be taken with food to decrease the chance of stomach irritation.

Your dose and length of treatment are based on your weight, condition, and response to therapy. When treating rheumatoid arthritis, it may take up to 2 months before you feel any relief of symptoms. If your symptoms do not improve after 3 months of treatment, call your doctor.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of your next dose, skip it and continue with your normal dose time. Do not take a double dose to make up the missed dose.

Most Important Warnings

  • In some situations, taking azathioprine for an extended time has increased the incidence of various types of cancer.
  • Azathioprine has been known to cause a life threating decrease in blood cells in your bone marrow. Your doctor will check your blood before beginning treatment, often during treatment, and when your treatment is complete to determine the effect on your blood cells.

Other Warnings & Cautions

  • This medication will weaken your immune system. Do not get any vaccinations while taking this medication without talking to your doctor first. Try to avoid contact with any people who have recently received a live vaccine such as the nasal flu vaccine or the shingles vaccine.
  • While taking azathioprine, it is important to avoid contact with individuals who have contagious infections and wash your hands often to prevent the spread of infection.
  • The elderly may be much more sensitive to the side effects of this medication.
  • Azathioprine should not be used during pregnancy. Women of childbearing age who are taking this medication need to use reliable birth control. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this medication.
  • Azathioprine passes into the breast milk and could have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. Do not breastfeed while taking this medication.

Interactions & Side Effects

  • Tell your pharmacist or doctor all your medication allergies so they may determine if azathioprine is safe for you to take.
  • Avoid dangerous drug interactions. Tell your pharmacist or doctor all the other medication you are taking, including over the counter supplements, even if you don’t take them very often.
  • Ask your doctor if this medication is safe to take with your current health conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any immune system disorders, liver or kidney disease, history of any blood or bone marrow disorders, any history of cancer, or any other existing medical condition.
  • While taking azathioprine, you may feel some stomach cramping, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite or headache. If these or any other unwanted side effects persist, contact your doctor or pharmacist to talk about it with them.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any muscle aches and pains, irregular heartbeat, hair loss, difficulty swallowing, any vision changes, mouth sores or greasy stools.

If you have any questions about what you have heard, contact your pharmacist or doctor. This session does not include all the potential interactions or side effects that this medication may cause. Ask your pharmacist how your medication should be stored and how you should dispose of it when you are done taking it. Do not share your medication with anyone, ever. Remember, this is not meant to replace your counseling session with your pharmacist. In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Updated 7/20