Azathioprine is a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help prevent rejection after a kidney transplant. It is sometimes used off-label to treat symptoms of autoimmune diseases including autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Azathioprine is often prescribed to be taken with a corticosteroid. This makes it possible to take lower doses of the steroid, and to withdraw it more quickly, thereby sparing worse side effects. Azathioprine is also known by the brand names Imuran and Azasan.
Azathioprine is an immunomodulator, or in other words, a drug that modulates the immune system. It is an antimetabolite that blocks the synthesis of purine, a protein the body needs to produce lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell active in the immune system. Azathioprine is believed to work in people with AIHA by blocking the synthesis of lymphocytes, decreasing their numbers, and preventing them from attacking red blood cells.
How do I take it?
Azathioprine is taken orally in tablet form. It is usually prescribed to be taken once daily.
Your doctor may order regular complete blood count and liver function tests while you are taking azathioprine.
Common side effects of azathioprine include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
Tell your doctor if you experience any of these rare but serious side effects such as hair loss, muscle loss, greasy-looking stools, mouth sores, sensations of cold or numbness in the fingers, or pain or difficulty when swallowing.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience signs of liver problems including yellowing of the skin or eyes, swollen or painful abdomen, black stools, or vomit that contains blood or a substance that looks like coffee grounds.
Azathioprine can weaken your immune system, making it less able to fight off infections. Inform your doctor if you experience signs of infection such as fever, chills, and aches. Ask your doctor before receiving any vaccination or immunization while taking azathioprine.
In rare cases, chronic use of azathioprine has contributed to the development of cancers such as lymphoma.
For more information about this treatment, visit:
Azathioprine — Drugs.com
Treatment Options for Primary Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia — Transfusion Medicine and Hemotherapy