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Transplant Medications

The important role these drugs play

2671309_xxlOrgan transplant is a boon to those suffering from organ failure. Some of the commonly transplanted organs include the heart, lung, kidney, liver, cornea, bone allograft, skin, heart valves, vascular tissues, and trachea. After a successful organ transplant, the quality of life of the patient improves significantly. Protecting this newly implanted organ from the body’s own immune system is vital. While our body recognises the difference between our own cells and foreign matter, it is unable to differentiate between harmful foreign matter and those that are helpful, like a transplanted organ. Hence, transplant medications are prescribed to protect the newly transplanted organ from being rejected by the body.

Immunosuppressant Drugs

Immunosuppressant or anti-rejection drugs are normally prescribed to keep the body from rejecting the newly implanted organ. Majority of those who receive an organ transplant have to take these drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs suppress or reduce the strength of the body’s immune system. By weakening the immune system, these drugs allow the transplanted organ to remain healthy and free from damage.

Common Transplant Medication

Some of the common transplant medications include Tacrolimus (Prograf or FK506), Cyclosporine A (Neoral or generic formulation), Methylprednisolone (Medrol, Prednisone), Sirolimus (Rapamune), Azathioprine (Imuran), and Muromonab CD3 (OKT3). Depending upon the type of organ transplanted and the requirement of the patient, the physician will prescribe specific medications.

Post-transplant a patient is immediately prescribed high doses of immunosuppressants. While the patient is typically required to take these drugs for the rest of their lives, the doses may be changed or modified to suit the individual requirements of the patient. Immunosuppressant drugs are only available on prescription from a physician, and can be administered in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, and injections.

Risks and Side Effects

As with any treatment or drug, immunosuppressants are associated with risks and side effects. The immunosuppressant weakens the immune system of the body, making it prone to other infections and some types of cancer. Hence, people taking immunosuppressants should avoid catching an infection.

A transplant physician would use different combinations of medications, trying to maintain a delicate balance between a weak immune system and the risk of organ rejection in each patient.

A physician should be notified immediately when the following symptoms occur:

  • Fever or chills
  • Pain in the lower back or on the sides
  • Pain or difficulty urinating
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Blood in urine
  • Stools that are bloody or black

Some of the unwanted side effects may include, but not limited to, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, weight gain, acne, excess hair growth or hair loss, mood swings, or enlarged gums. It is vital that the medication is not discontinued even if the patient experiences any of these side effects. The physician can help adjust the prescription to minimise the side effects without increasing the risk of organ rejection.

Helpful Tips

Dos

After receiving an organ transplant, the patient needs to keep the following in mind:

  • Take the medications prescribed at the same time each day and be sure never to miss a single dose.
  • Keep all the doctor’s appointments.
  • Undergo every recommended laboratory test.
  • Always check with the transplant physician before taking any new medicines, including the ones bought over-the-counter.
  • Ensure that they never run out of medication, for even a single dose missed can have harmful implications.

Don’ts

  • Do not take any herbal medications as their interaction with the transplant medications is unknown.
  • Do not store medication in a bathroom cabinet as bathrooms have moisture. Store them in a dry place like the kitchen cabinet. Improper storage of medicine may result in loss of potency.
  • Do not take any medicine if they are soft, sticky, hard or cracked, or have a notably different colour or odour. Contact your physician immediately.

A Lifetime Commitment

Organ rejection is a constant threat. Preventing the body’s immune system from rejecting the transplanted organ is a continuous effort. Hence, transplant medications are a lifetime commitment. These medications will be required to be taken for the rest of the life of the transplant patient, though the types of medication and the dosages may change over time.

 

References and Further Reading:

http://www.liveon.sg/

http://www.transplantliving.org/after-the-transplant/medications/post-transplant-medications/

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/life-after-transplant-tips-managing-health

http://www.med.umich.edu/trans/public/pdf/6_medications.pdf

http://www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=33942

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by Kavitha Mallavarapu
Posted by ezyhealth on Apr 8 2014. Filed under Medical Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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