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Azathioprine is typically prescribed to prevent organ rejection following a kidney transplant or to help treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It is not exactly known how the drug works, but it is thought to work mostly by suppressing the immune system. Side effects of azathioprine include infections, nausea, and vomiting. The medication comes in tablet form and is taken once or twice a day.

What Is Azathioprine?

Azathioprine (Imuran®) is a prescription medication that is approved to:
  • Be used along with other medications to prevent organ rejection after a kidney transplant
  • Reduce the signs and symptoms of active rheumatoid arthritis.
(Click What Is Azathioprine Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes It?

Azathioprine is made by Prometheus Laboratories.

How Does Azathioprine Work?

It is not known exactly how azathioprine works to prevent kidney transplant rejection or to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The medication acts in a way similar to certain types of chemotherapy medications, killing cells by damaging DNA. Also, much like chemotherapy medications, azathioprine suppresses the immune system (it is thought to work mostly by suppressing the immune system). The immune system is responsible for rejecting transplanted organs, and an overactive immune system plays an important role in rheumatoid arthritis.

When and How to Take It

General considerations for when and how to take azathioprine include the following:
  • The medication comes in tablet form. It is usually taken by mouth once or twice a day.
  • You can take azathioprine with or without food. If the medication bothers your stomach, try taking it with food.
  • Azathioprine should be taken at the same time(s) each day to maintain an even level in your blood.
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. Azathioprine will not work if you stop taking it.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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