Imuran, also known by its drug name azathioprine, is a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help prevent rejection in people who’ve had kidney transplants. Imuran is sometimes prescribed to treat inflammation in people with severe psoriatic arthritis. Imuran may also help improve skin symptoms of psoriasis.
Imuran is not appropriate for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding. People with active infections should not begin taking Imuran. Imuran is not appropriate for people who have shown a previous hypersensitivity to azathioprine.
Imuran is an immunomodulator, a drug that modulates the immune system. Imuran is also considered a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD). 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. Imuran is believed to work by blocking the synthesis of lymphocytes, decreasing their numbers, and preventing them from attacking connective tissues.
How do I take it?
Imuran is taken orally in tablet form. It is usually prescribed to be taken once or twice daily. Taking Imuran with meals may decrease some side effects. Your doctor may start you on a low dose at first to gauge any side effects, and then slowly increase the dosage.
Your doctor may order regular complete blood count and liver function tests while you are taking Imuran to monitor your risk for serious side effects.
It is important for both men and women to use effective birth control while taking Imuran. Also note that Imuran can lower the effectiveness of intrauterine devices (IUDs).
Imuran raises your risk of developing skin cancer. Wear protective clothing and sunblock with a high sun protection factor while taking Imuran.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking Imuran.
Common side effects of Imuran include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
Tell your doctor if you experience 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.
Imuran 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 while taking Imuran.
In rare cases, chronic use of Imuran has contributed to the development of cancer, including lymphoma and skin cancer.
Another rare but serious side effect of taking Imuran is an increased risk of developing a brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Seek immediate medical attention if you begin experiencing seizures, problems speaking or moving, vision changes, confusion, or difficulty concentrating.
For more information about this treatment, visit:
Azathioprine — Cleveland Clinic
Azathioprine (Imuran) Drug Information Sheet — Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center