Covers cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune), a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug sometimes used to treat severe rheumatoid arthritis by slowing damage to joints. Includes side effects. Gives warning to use only under supervision of a specialist.
Cyclosporine for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune
Cyclosporine is given orally (by mouth) or as a shot (injection).
How It Works
Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressive
medicine, which means that it decreases the action of your body's
immune system. By interrupting the immune process,
cyclosporine reduces inflammation and slows damage to your joints. Cyclosporine
is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), which means that it slows
the progression of
rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs are also called
slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs).
Why It Is Used
Cyclosporine is sometimes used for
severe rheumatoid arthritis that has not responded to most other DMARD
How Well It Works
Cyclosporine can be effective for
severe rheumatoid arthritis for short periods of time. Its use is limited
because of its toxicity and because it may interact with other medicines you
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Blood in your urine.
Call your doctor if you have:
Fever or chills.
Cyclosporine may also cause side effects that your doctor will test for, including:
High blood pressure.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Increased hair growth.
Shaking hands (tremor).
Sores in the mouth or bleeding, painful, or swollen gums.
Tingling in your feet or hands.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is
not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
When you are taking cyclosporine (and even after you are finished taking it), make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations. Some vaccines can actually cause the disease they are trying to prevent in people who are taking cyclosporine.
Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this medicine.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (2009). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 7(81): 37–46.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.