Scientific Foundations

Anti-rejection drugs work by blocking the immune response from attacking the new organ. Some anti-rejection drugs limit the number of T-lymphocyte cells, so there are fewer of them to attack the organ. Others slow the production of substances in the body that are used to make T-lymphocyte cells. Steroid drugs such as predni-sone reduce the swelling that occurs with an immune response.

This person's arm shows drug-induced photosensitivity from taking cyclosporine. Photosensitivity means that a person is more sensitive to sunlight, and being in the sun caused the redness and blisters on the arm. Dr. P. Marazzi/Photo Researchers, Inc.

The most common anti-rejection drugs are:

• Cyclosporine—This drug comes from a fungus. It stops the activation of T-lymphocytes to prevent them from attacking the organ. Patients take it once or twice a day. Its side effects include high blood pressure, shaking, kidney or liver damage, and tender gums.

• Prednisone—This drug is a steroid. The body naturally makes steroids. Steroids reduce the swelling that occurs with an immune response. This drug is often used with cyclosporine.

• Tacrolimus—This drug works like cyclosporine. It prevents immune cells from causing rejection. Its side effects include high blood pressure, shaking, headache, and nausea.

• Sirolimus—This drug blocks the action of T-lymphocytes to prevent them from attacking the organ. It is usually combined with prednisone and cyclosporine. Its side effects include upset stomach, infection, shaking, and some kinds of cancer.

• Azathioprine (brand name Imuran)—This drug blocks production of white blood cells that cause rejection. Its side effects include nausea, rash, muscle pain, and infection.

• Mycophenolate mofetil (brand name CellCept)—This drug also holds back the immune system so that it does not reject the new organ. Its side effects include loose stools (diarrhea), lower numbers of white blood cells, blood infection, and other kinds of infections.

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