In this session, we will be discussing the consumer medication information for leflunomide, trade name AravaTM.
What it’s for & How to take
Leflunomide suppresses your immune system response. This medication is usually used 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 its joints, causing pain, swelling, and loss of function. Leflunomide 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.
Leflunomide 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 daily or as directed by your doctor. Leflunomide may be taken with or without food.
Your dose and length of treatment are based on your 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 or worsen, 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
- Do not take leflunomide if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Leflunomide may harm the fetus. Do not begin taking this medication until your doctor tells you that you are not pregnant. You must use an effective method of birth control before, during, and for 2 years after treatment. If you think you may be pregnant, call your doctor immediately.
- Leflunomide may cause fatal liver damage. Tell your doctor if you have or have ever been told you have hepatitis or any other type of liver disease.
Other Warnings & Cautions
- This medication will weaken your immune system. Do not get any vaccinations while taking this medication without talking with 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 leflunomide, it is important to avoid contact with individuals who have contagious infections and wash your hands often to prevent the spread of an infection.
- Leflunomide 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.
- Do not breastfeed while taking this medication.
- It is not known whether this medication passes through the sperm. To minimize any risk, if either partner, man or women, is using this medication, two effective forms of birth control should be used.
- Men who are taking this medication who want to father a child should discuss their options with their doctor first. Their doctor may have them stop taking leflunomide and administer to them a medication which will help remove the leflunomide from their body.
- This medication may make you dizzy, drowsy, or blur your vision. Do not drive or do any activity that requires focus and attention until you are sure you can do them safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages while taking leflunomide.
Interactions & Side Effects
- Tell your pharmacist or doctor all your medication allergies so they may determine if leflunomide 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 alcohol dependency, heart or lung disease, or any other existing medical condition.
- While taking leflunomide, you may feel some stomach cramping, dizziness, 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, changes in mood such as anxiety or depression, any vision changes or a persistent ringing in the ears.
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.