Mycophenolate Mofetil (brand name, CellCept) is an immunosuppressive agent that is widely used for various conditions including autoimmune conditions, such as Lupus and Systemic Sclerosis. As an immunosuppressive agent, it prevents immune system activity, and is used to lower the body’s natural immunity after an organ transplant.
Mycophenolate Mofetil is available in capsule, powder (for suspension) and liquid forms. You take it on an empty stomach either 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals, unless your doctor gives you different instructions.
Things to know prior to starting treatment with Mycophenolate Mofetil
- Pregnancy and Breast feeding
This medication is known to increase the chance of miscarriage or birth defects in babies during the first trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, Mycophenolate Mofetil should be avoided during pregnancy. Your doctor may give you a pregnancy test before you start this medicine. While taking the medicine, it is important to use effective birth control. Begin birth control one month prior to starting the medication and continue taking it for 6 weeks after your last dose of this medicine.
Mycophenolate Mofetil is excreted in breast milk, so it should not be taken by women who are breastfeeding.
All people who plan to take Mycophenolate Mofetil need appropriate immunizations prior to starting treatment. Make sure you talk to your doctor about this.
- Other tests
Your doctor may do additional tests prior to starting treatment, including a complete blood panel, liver and kidney function assessments, tuberculosis screening, and hepatitis infection test.
Things to know while being treated with Mycophenolate Mofetil
- Effective birth control methods
To prevent pregnancy, talk to your doctor regarding effective birth control methods while using this medication. You may need to use two forms of birth control methods at the same time.
- Regular skin examinations
Taking Mycophenolate Mofetil may increase the risk for skin cancer. Talk to your doctor about getting regular skin examinations. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds. Wear clothes will protect you from sunlight. When outdoors, use sunscreen or sunblock lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on a regular basis.
- Watch out for symptoms of lymphoma
Lymphoma, a cancer of the cells that fight infection, happens rarely with this medication. Therefore, it is important to test your blood regularly during treatment with Mycophenolate Mofetil. Talk with your doctor if you experience unusual bleeding, bruising, weakness, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, underarms or groin, or raised bumps on the skin with pus or red, scaly patches.
- Avoid getting infected
Since you may be more prone to infections while taking this medication, wash your hands often and stay away from people with an infection, cold or the flu. Check with your doctor if you experience fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, bad sore throat, ear or sinus pain, mouth sores, cough, excess phlegm or change in the phlegm’s color, pain when urinating, or a wound that is not healing.
- Keep an eye out for Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) and BK Virus-Associated Nephropathy (BKVAN), a brain infection
Talk with your doctor right away if you are having more than one of these symptoms of PML: loss of coordination, change in vision, clumsiness, memory loss, difficulty speaking or understanding what others say, or weakness in the legs.
BKVAN may cause a kidney transplant to fail. Check with your doctor right away if you are having more than one of these symptoms: infrequent urination, decrease in the amount of urine, bloody urine, increased thirst, loss of appetite, lower back or side pain, nausea, swollen face, fingers or lower legs, trouble breathing, unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting or weight gain.
- Watch out for symptoms of reactivating Hepatitis B or C Infection
Call your doctor right away if you experience dark-colored urine or pale stools, nausea, vomiting, yellow skin or eyes, loss of appetite, or pain in your upper stomach.
- Consult with your doctor before taking any vaccinations or immunizations
Because Mycophenolate will lower your body’s resistance, there is a chance that you could get an infection with the immunization that you take to prevent an illness.
Common side effects
Some of the common side effects of Mycophenolate Mofetil include heartburn, burping, lack or loss of strength, rash, trouble sleeping, weight loss or stomach pain. This is not a complete list. Check with your health care professional if you experience any symptoms that continue or are problematic.
Take away message
Mycophenolate Mofetil, formerly used only for people with an organ transplant, is now recommended to manage many autoimmune diseases. Like all medications, Mycophenolate Mofetil has benefits and risks. It should not be used if you are planning to get pregnant or are already pregnant.
Make sure you discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor if you are planning to take this medication. If you do experience any symptoms that are problematic, notify your healthcare team.