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By Medifit Education





Immunosuppressant drugs are a class of drugs that suppress or reduce the strength of the body’s immune system.

They are also called anti-rejection drugs. One of the primary uses of immunosuppressant drugs is to lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ, such as a liver, heart or kidney.



Immunosuppressant drugs, also called anti-rejection drugs, are used to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ.



An agent that can suppress or prevent the immune response. Immunosuppressants are used to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ and to treat autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. Some treatments for cancer act as immunosuppressants.


Types of Immunosuppressants

Post-transplant immunosuppression almost always includes a combination of drugs and approaches based on a patient’s individual situation, organ transplanted and current developments in the field. Depending on these factors, approaches could include:

Induction immunosuppression.

This approach includes all medications given immediately after transplantation in intensified doses for the purpose of preventing acute rejection. Although the drugs may be continued after discharge for the first 30 days after transplant, they are not used long-term for immunosuppressive maintenance. Associated medications can include Methylprednisolone, Atgam, Thymoglobulin, OKT3, Basiliximab or Daclizumab.

Maintenance immunosuppression.

Maintenance includes all immunosuppressive medications given before, during or after transplant with the intention to maintain them long-term. For example, Prednisone, Cyclosporine, Tacrolimus, Mycophenolate Mofetil, Azathioprine or Rapamycin. In addition, maintenance immunosuppression does not include any immunosuppressive medications given to treat rejection episodes, or for induction.

Anti-rejection immunosuppression. This approach includes all immunosuppressive medications given for the purpose of treating an acute rejection episode during the initial post-transplant period or during a specific follow-up period, usually up to 30 days after the diagnosis of acute rejection. Associated medications can include Methylprednisolone, Atgam, OKT3, Thymoglobulin, Basiliximab or Daclizumab.


Side Effects

Increased risk of infection is a common side effect of all the immunosuppressant drugs. The immune system protects the body from infections and when the immune system is suppressed, infections are more likely. Taking such antibiotics as co-trimoxazole prevents some of these infections. Immunosuppressant drugs are also associated with a slightly increased risk of cancer because the immune system also plays a role in protecting the body against some forms of cancer. For example, long-term use of immunosuppressant drugs carries an increased risk of developing skin cancer as a result of the combination of the drugs and exposure to sunlight.

Other side effects of immunosuppressant drugs are minor and usually go away as the body adjusts to the medicine. These include loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, increased hair growth, and trembling or shaking of the hands. Medical attention is not necessary unless these side effects continue or cause problems.

The treating physician should be notified immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • fever or chills
  • frequent need to urinate

By Medifit Education