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All about: mercaptopurine

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Generic Name: mercaptopurine (mer kap toe PYOOR een)
Brand Names: Purinethol

What is mercaptopurine?

Mercaptopurine is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their growth and spread in the body.

Mercaptopurine is used to treat acute lymphatic leukemia or acute myelogenous leukemia. Mercaptopurine is usually given together with other cancer medications.

Mercaptopurine may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about mercaptopurine?

Before taking mercaptopurine, tell your doctor if you are allgergic to any drugs, or if you have kidney or liver disease, or any type of infection.

Stop taking this medication and call your doctor at once if you have easy bruising or bleeding, fever, chills, sore throat, flu symptoms, mouth sores, dark urine, severe stomach pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), or severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Mercaptopurine can lower the blood cells that help your body fight infections. This can make it easier for you to bleed from an injury or get sick from being around others who are ill. To be sure your blood cells do not get too low, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. Do not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking mercaptopurine?

Do not use this medication if you are allergic to mercaptopurine.

Before taking mercaptopurine, tell your doctor if you are allgergic to any drugs, or if you have:

  • liver problems;
  • kidney problems; or
  • any type of viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.

If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use mercaptopurine, or you may need a dosage adjustment or special tests during treatment.

FDA pregnancy category D. This medication can cause harm to an unborn baby. Do not use mercaptopurine without your doctor's consent if you are pregnant. Tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment. Use an effective form of birth control while you are using this medication. It is not known whether mercaptopurine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How should I take mercaptopurine?

Take this medication exactly as it was prescribed for you. Do not take the medication in larger amounts, or take it for longer than recommended by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Take this medicine with a full glass of water.

Mercaptopurine can lower the blood cells that help your body fight infections. This can make it easier for you to bleed from an injury or get sick from being around others who are ill. To be sure your blood cells do not get too low, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. Do not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor.

Store mercaptopurine at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the medicine at your next regularly scheduled time. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of this medicine. Symptoms of a mercaptopurine overdose may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, easy bleeding or bruising, fever or other signs of infection, and jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes).

What should I avoid while taking mercaptopurine?

Avoid being near people who have colds, the flu, or other contagious illnesses. Contact your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

Mercaptopurine side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using mercaptopurine and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
  • pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness;

  • fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, weakness, muscle pain, flu symptoms;

  • severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea;

  • severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, fast heart rate;

  • stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); or

  • white patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips.

Continue taking mercaptopurine and talk with your doctor if you have any of these less serious side effects:

  • mild upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite;

  • hair loss;

  • skin rash; or

  • changes in skin color.

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

What other drugs will affect mercaptopurine?

Before taking mercaptopurine, tell your doctor if you are using any of the following drugs:

  • allopurinol (Zyloprim, Aloprim, Lopurin);

  • azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran);

  • a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin);

  • cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune);

  • olsalazine (Dipentum), or sulfasalazine (Azulfidine);

  • sulfamethoxasole and trimethoprim (Trimpex, Proloprim, Bactrim, Septra, others); or

  • thioguanine (Tabloid).

If you are using any of these drugs, you may not be able to take mercaptopurine, or you may need dosage adjustments or special tests during treatment.

There may be other drugs not listed that can affect mercaptopurine. Tell your doctor about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you use. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and drugs prescribed by other doctors. Do not start using a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist has information about mercaptopurine written for health professionals that you may read.

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Copyright 1996-2006 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 3.03. Revision Date: 07/13/2007 10:02:31 AM.

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