Immunosuppressant drugs have the function of blocking the response of the immune system. They are used both for organ transplantation and to control some autoimmune diseases.
Immunosuppressive drugs are those whose composition helps to inhibit the response of the immune system , which is the body’s main source of defense. Its use is mandatory in patients who receive an organ transplant ,since it prevents the body from rejecting new tissues.
However, they are also used as a treatment for other ailments and diseases, especially those called “autoimmune”. In addition, in some cases they are used together with steroid drugs , since they help to reduce the doses and side effects of steroid therapy.
What is its mechanism of action?
When the immune system identifies a substance or agent foreign to the normal substances present in the body, it activates the antibodies to attack and destroy them.
The latter, not being differentiated from a bacterium or virus, receives an attack that causes its rejection of the body. Therefore, the use of immunosuppressant drugs is necessary both for the prevention and for the treatment of organ transplants. Patients receiving these interventions should take them for life.
Immunosuppressant drugs act by interfering with the synthesis of cellular DNA , which contains the genetic information. In this way they help to intentionally suppress the production and activity of immune cells , preventing their multiplication.
Now, as I suppose, this has a cost. Because the normal immune response of the body undergoes abrupt alteration, it is more difficult for it to detect and destroy cancer cells and other infectious agents that affect health.
In what cases are they prescribed?
In the beginning, immunosuppressive drugs were used to prevent the organism from rejecting the transplant of an organ or tissue such as: kidney, heart or bone marrow. However, although they still have this purpose, they are also used for other diseases such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Ulcerative colitis
- Myasthenia gravis
- Some inflammatory diseases that are not of autoimmune origin
What are the secondary effects?
As we have mentioned, its main disadvantage is that they affect the functioning of the immune system. Therefore, those who consume them are more exposed to infections and diseases such as cancer.
The prolonged use of these drugs can cause, in the long term, an elevated risk of skin cancer . This is due to the combination of the effects of medications and sun exposure without proper protection. Other minor side effects include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Increase hair growth
- Shaking hands
- Loss of appetite
When to go to the doctor?
Most minor effects disappear when the body gets used to the medicationor the dose is adjusted. However, in some cases they are prolonged or complicated, requiring medical attention. It is important to see a doctor if:
- There is a high fever and chills
- A cold or cough that does not go away
- Pain is felt when urinating and there are changes in urination
- There are difficulties to breathe
- Increase the feeling of tiredness
- Repeated and prolonged abdominal pain occurs
Classification of immunosuppressant drugs
There are several types of immunosuppressant drugs and their administration varies depending on the problem to be treated or its mechanism of action . According to this, they are classified as follows:
- Azatriopina (inhibits the synthesis of RNA and DNA)
- Cyclosporins (inhibit the activation of T cells)
- Calcineurin inhibitors
- Monoclonal antibodies
Most common immunosuppressive drugs
- Mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept)
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
- Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf)
- Leflunomide (Arava)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Chlorambucil (Leukeran)
- Mustard Nitrogen (Mustargen)
With what medications can they interact?
Before starting a treatment with immunosuppressive drugs it is essential to inform the doctor if they are taking other drugs. The professional will have to evaluate if there is the possibility of consuming them simultaneously. Sometimes interactions occur that affect the effectiveness of both drugs or elevate their side effects.
- The consumption of sirulimus with ciclosporin can increase the levels of sirolimus, causing serious side effects. In case they are prescribed together, sirolimus should be taken about 4 hours before the dose of
- The risk of cancer rises when immunosuppressants are combined with other drugs that also affect the immune system such as corticosteroids and anticancer drugs.
- The effects of ciclosporin increase when it is taken simultaneously with male hormones, female hormones and erythromycins.
- Azathioprine may have a negative interaction with allopurinol, a drug used in the treatment of gout .
Patients who receive this type of treatment should see a doctor regularly for check-ups. This measure is very important since it helps to determine how its impact on the organism has been and if there are unwanted reactions that must be treated.