When people receive kidney transplants, doctors often prescribe azathioprine with other medications to make sure the patient's body doesn't reject the new organ. Doctors also prescribe the drug to help people with several other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Azathioprine successfully helps thousands of American patients every year, but some people suffer serious injuries as a result of this medication. Learn more about the effects azathioprine can have on your body, and find out why some people have filed personal injury lawsuits against the drug's manufacturers.
How azathioprine works
Azathioprine is an immunosuppressant. As the name suggests, these drugs decrease your body's immune system activity, which, in certain cases, can cause chronic conditions. For example, doctors now believe that inflammatory bowel disease occurs when your immune system malfunctions, attacking cells in your digestive tract. Azathioprine helps ease these symptoms by stopping the immune system attacking the body. That aside, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve azathioprine to treat inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
Doctors prescribe the medicine as a tablet, which you normally take once or twice a day after meals. The dose varies according to the condition the doctor is treating. For rheumatoid arthritis, you'll normally start on a low dose and then gradually increase the amount you take each day. To stop your body rejecting a transplanted organ, you normally start with a high dose and then cut down over a short period.
Side effects of azathioprine
The medication can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are normally temporary and should quickly subside. Other side effects are more serious.
Rarely, teenagers and young adult men using azathioprine can develop a condition called hepastosplenic T-cell lymphoma (HSTCL). HSTCL is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that can quickly cause death. Azathioprine can also increase the risk of other types of cancer for people taking the medication after a kidney transplant.
Azathioprine can also affect the blood cells in your bone marrow, leading to serious, life-threatening infections, particularly where patients have an inherited risk factor. Problems with these blood cells can become more serious if your doctor prescribes azathioprine with certain other medication called enzyme inhibitors.
People who use azathioprine are also at higher risk of liver damage, although doctors don't yet understand why the medication can cause this problem. Azathioprine patients sometimes experience cholestatic liver disease, which occurs when the liver is unable make bile properly, sometimes leading to damage to the bile ducts. This problem occurs in around one in a thousand people treated with the drug.
Why azathioprine injuries can lead to a lawsuit
Drug manufacturers must make sure that the medications they develop are safe to use and fit for the intended purpose. Where risks exist, these manufacturers must make sure they warn consumers, and any product marketing must not mislead potential users.
Some people have filed personal injury lawsuits against azathioprine manufacturers. These lawsuits allege that the medication is not safe because the makers did not do enough to warn patients about the risks.
In 2011, the FDA issued a drug safety communication, alerting patients and healthcare professionals to the risk of HSTCL for certain people using azathioprine. The communication advised doctors to discuss the potential risks with patients and caregivers before prescribing the medicine. For some people, this advice came too late, and patients who started to use the drug before this safety communication have argued in court that they should have received this information sooner.
Some patients have also filed lawsuits against healthcare professionals who prescribe azathioprine to treat inflammatory bowel disease. These lawsuits allege that the doctors should not have prescribed a medicine in a way that the FDA has not approved. In some cases, patients have also alleged that doctors did not arrange the right diagnostics for patients taking the medication. For example, doctors should recommend that azathioprine patients have quarterly routine blood tests to check for signs of liver damage.If a doctor does not suggest this important diagnostic, an attorney may allege that he or she was negligent.
Azathioprine injuries can lead to serious side effects. If you or someone you love suffers an injury as a result of this medication, you should contact a personal injury attorney from a firm like Tanner Law Firm for more advice. He or she can help you claim compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other unexpected costs.