Immunosuppressants are drugs or agents that inhibit or prevent activity of the immune system. They are also called anti-rejection drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ, such as a kidney, heart or liver.
Most of the immunosuppressants were developed for the use in transplantation or oncology. This treatment is potentially life-saving. However, there are now over 80 autoimmune diseases and several common allergic conditions in which Immunosuppressants plays a role in over 80 autoimmune diseases and several common allergic conditions.
Some immunosuppressants work by immunodepleting the effector cells, while others affect the activity of cells by cytokine inhibition. Side effect of many immunosuppressive drugs is immunodeficiency, because they prevent the ctivity of immune system. Some other side-effects include
- peptic ulcers
- Moon face
- liver and kidney injury
WHY IMMUNOSUPRESSANTS ARE USED?
Any who receives an organ transplant has to take immunosuppressant drugs. Transplanted organ is considered as a foreign mass by the body. Our immune system triggers a response to attack it.
Immunosuppressant drugs weakens the immune system which decreases the body’s response to that foreign organ. The transplanted organ can remain healthy and free from damage by the use of these drugs.
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, can also be treated by immunosuppressants. An autoimmune disorder is characterized as a disease in which the body attacks its own tissue. This happens do due to the misdirected activity of the body’s own immune system. Immunosuppressant drugs suppress this reaction which controls the impact of the disease on the body.
Other diseases treated with immunosuppressant drugs include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alopecia areata (patchy hair loss)
TYPES OF IMMUNOSUPPRESANTS:
Immunosuppressive drugs can be classified into five groups:
Glucocorticoids are used to suppress various allergic, inflammatory, and autoimmune disorders. They prevent acute transplant rejection and graft-versus-host disease. Infection can not be prevented by these and they also inhibit later reparative processes.
They inhibit cell division. In immunotherapy, smaller doses are used than in the treatment of malignant diseases. They affect the working of both T cells and B cells. Due to their highest effectiveness, they are mostly recommended.
Nitrogen mustards (cyclophosphamide)
- Platinum compounds
- Cyclophosphamide (Baxter's Cytoxan)
- Methotrexate(folic acid analogue)
- Azathioprine and mercaptopurine (purine analogues)
- Fluorouracil (pyrimidine analogue)
- Methotrexate (folic acid analogue)
- Azathioprine (Prometheus' Imuran)
- mitomycin C
Antibodies are sometimes used as a quick and potent immunosuppressive therapy to prevent the acute rejection reactions as well as a targeted treatment of lymphoproliferative or autoimmune disorders
- Basiliximab (Simulect)
- Daclizumab (Zenapax)
DRUG ACTING ON IMMUNOPHILINS
- Ciclosporin (Novartis' Sandimmune)
- Tacrolimus (Prograf)
- Sirolimus (rapamycin, Rapamune)
- Infliximab (Remicade)
- Etanercept (Enbrel)
- Adalimumab (Humira)
SIDE EFFECTS OF IMMUNOSUPPRESSANTS:
The most significant side effect of immunosuppressant drugs is an increased risk of infection. The drugs can also put you at a higher risk for cancer because the immune system also protects you from this disease.
The following side effects indicate the need for immediate attention:
- A feeling of being unusually tired or weak
- Fever or chills
- Frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
- Increased hair growth
- Hand trembling.