Cyclophosphamide for Rheumatoid Arthritis
How It Works
Cyclophosphamide is an immunosuppressive medicine, which means that it decreases the effects of your body's immune system. By interrupting the immune process, cyclophosphamide reduces inflammation and slows joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Cyclophosphamide is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), which means it controls the progression of the disease. DMARDs are also called slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs).
Why It Is Used
Cyclophosphamide is often used as chemotherapy in treatments for certain cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and breast cancer. It is also used to suppress the immune system before a bone marrow transplant or after an organ transplant.
How Well It Works
Cyclophosphamide has been found to be effective in treating serious complications of rheumatoid arthritis such as vasculitis. Because of its serious side effects, cyclophosphamide is most often reserved for use in people with severe rheumatoid arthritis that has not responded to other treatments.1
Side effects of cyclophosphamide are common and can include:
Severe reactions can include:
Because cyclophosphamide decreases the activity of your body's natural immune system, fever and chills are considered serious side effects that should be reported to your doctor immediately.
If you take cyclophosphamide, you may have a slightly greater chance of getting cancer in your lifetime. This risk is small. But your doctor may check for cancer more often than if you did not take cyclophosphamide.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Cyclophosphamide should not be used by women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. If you are a woman of childbearing age and are going to take cyclophosphamide, use some form of reliable birth control.
If you are taking cyclophosphamide, it is very important to drink plenty of fluids (around 3 quarts) each day to avoid bladder irritations.
Your doctor will schedule you for regular blood counts during treatment with cyclophosphamide.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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